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Digital - Let the Systems do the thinking

Chatting at the week-end, over lunch on Saturday, with my wife and teenage daughter we got onto the subject of photography. We reminisced about film speeds (ASA100, 200, 400 etc) forgetting to set it on the camera correctly would ruin all the Christmas pictures of Aunt Mabel asleep in the armchair during the Queens speech - having over-indulged - again. We extolled the virtues of aperture settings (f stop) of how to improve depth of field - if this was required – to show the rest of the family having fun at Aunt Mabel’s expense. We talked through the correct way to hold a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera to enable you to both balance the equipment securely as well as give full access for focusing and changing aperture. With long (200-300mm) Telephoto lenses we agreed that it’s easier to focus before zooming out and then zooming and adjusting slightly –and just hope the subject has been cooperative! We giggled about the palarver of using separate light meters and the fuss made by our parents resplendent with their new super8 cine cameras with hand held separate light meters, trying to corral unruly children into a suitable area for filming, having fed them enough e numbers to send them into orbit! At least my first Nikkormat SLR had a built in light meter – it was advanced! Then we recalled the frustration of shutter speeds. Of needing a fast shutter speed to catch the action – and not having enough light, or a fast enough speed of film or too much glass in the lens to be able to take the shot. Of taking the camera down from your eye knowing what you missed, how good that picture could have been…

Unfortunately, this was all gobbledegook to my teenage daughter – who has become quite adept with our Nikon D50 (see picture 1). She doesn’t need to understand film speed as the digital camera takes this into account. There is no facility to adjust the aperture on this camera as it does that for you – along with shutter speed! Gone are the days of light meters and being concerned about the overcast weather in Spring. Depressing the shutter release button slightly, engages autofocus – so even that’s done for you. Point and shoot – but this is an SLR! Not only is it much much easier to use, it’s so much lighter to hold. Going back to my old Nikon 301 with a 65-300mm lens on is like parking a relative’s car for them and finding that there is no power steering.

Sitting crowded around looking through the newly arrived folder containing what my Mother would call ‘snaps’, seems like decades ago. The chore of having to separate them into piles and putting them into albums or scrap books seems even further away. Giving prints to friends and then losing the negatives - what a pain! Now we simply download the images to our computer and run a slide show. We never run out of film, or have to pay through the nose at a tourist shop – because we’ve just run out. All we need is a 2 gigabite SD card and a spare battery. We can even e-mail the resulting images – anywhere.

The thing is, once you’ve ‘gone digital’ there is no way back – I can do everything now at home that used to involve either dropping a film into a chemists or sending it away – and sometimes it not arriving there or back – no thanks.

The same is true professionally. The ability to take full face and detailed clinical pictures digitally is great. The practice server is regularly backed up – so it’s archived storage – just like my Mother’s album (only sometimes I don’t know who the chap in the picture with hat is).

So if photography is a done deal – what about other images that we take – radiographs? Today’s digital radiography systems are just as superb as the digital photography equipment. Broadly there are 2 basic systems: those connected directly to a computer and those that need some additional ‘processing’. The direct systems split again into intra-oral and extra-oral.

With intra-oral this generally means that the sensor has a cable attached, is fitted into a sensor holder (very similar to a film holder) positioned, as normal for paralleling technique, and exposed. The exposures will be similar to the sort of exposure that you would use for E/F speed film. If you have an x-ray unit between 60 to 70Kv – you should be able to convert to digital with no problems. You will need to exchange film holders for sensor holder, film for sensors and connect to your computer (installing software as required). If you get a Velopex Digital system (see picture 2) either USB (connected directly to your computer by USB cable) or Wi-Fi (connected wirelessly to your computer) then everything is included – this means that one of our technicians will install the system onto your computer and give you training on how to use it – all included in the price. All you have to debate is the ergonomics of your surgery and which sensor you want to have: size 1, size 2 or both. Regarding ergonomics, if you have your computer screen (or laptop) nearby to you and your patient so you both can see it - as well as your x-ray unit so you can take radiographs whilst your patient is in the chair – then USB is fine. If your ergonomics are more complicated then go for Wi-Fi and avoid an extra cable. The sensors and their cables come with a 24 Month Warranty – if you damage the casing of the sensor or the cable these can be repaired. Should you need a repair, please give us a call and we will send out a ‘loan sensor’ and get yours back for repair. The sensors themselves are the more delicate element and whilst they can handle some abuse – please treat them with respect – they have a lifespan of 100,000 exposures.

The main advantage of a direct digital intra-oral system is that by the time you’ve taken the sensor holder out of the patient’s mouth – the image is on your computer screen. Not only that, but at a size that a patient can relate to - instead of a vague image on 3x4cm film it’s now 13x17cm on the screen! You can now do what you do best and talk the patient through the various treatment options…

If you want to take a laptop and digital system and work at a local care home or other establishment or residence – all you will be short of will be an x-ray unit. This can be provided by the newly launched Nomad (see picture 3) hand-held x-ray unit (or it can be mounted on a stand and fitted with an extended cable). This 60Kv DC x-ray unit gives you total portability in diagnostics.  Both stand and unit come in well packed cases that are easy to carry. However, please pay attention to standard health and safety rules when using x-ray equipment.

If you’re tempted by digital x-ray but want to be sure before you buy – then take advantage of our ‘Rent before you buy’ scheme. This lets you take delivery of a new system and pay monthly rent whilst you have it - without any further commitment. If you decide that you’d like to go ahead and purchase, then the money already paid will be taken off the invoice value – getting the best of both Worlds!

Extra-oral direct systems come as complete packages: digital panoramic unit or ct system. We work with the Owandy range of systems (please see: http://www.owandy.net/2-5578-Digital-panoramic.php) that connect directly onto your computer. So by the time the patient has stepped out of the unit the image is on the screen and you can discuss the various treatment options as a result of the radiography just performed.

Regarding the systems that are not connected directly to a computer – we work closely with Konic Minolta to provide those dental practices who want to go from analogue panoramic (or cephalometric) to digital an ideal solution – without replacing the existing equipment (see picture 4) (http://www.konicaminolta.com/healthcare/products/cr/model110/index.html ). Simply replace your existing cassettes with new ones, install the ‘reader’ and place the touch screen computer workstation (included) in an ergonomic environment. You will then have the recently ‘processed’ images on screen before the patient has had a chance to sit down again post-exposure. Again, this will allow you to discuss the radiograph on screen with the patient and review treatment options.

For every treatment plan that goes forward your new digital system starts to pay for itself. So whilst in the old days you have a Velopex Service technician come along for your x-ray film processor – now he’ll come along to install your Digital System, Laser or Aquacut – that’s progress.

My loved Nikkormat and Nikon 301 found their way onto e-bay! There’s no going back!

Mark Chapman
Director Sales & Marketing
Velopex Products
Mobile: 07734 044877
E-mail: mark@velopex.com

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