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Frequently Asked Questions

Dental Film Processing


Updated June 11, 2003

Dark or Fogged Images

  1. Why does x-ray film come out black?
    There are five possible reasons:
    1. The film is overexposured (exposures are too long or the setting is too high).
    2. The processing times are too long.
    3. The temperature is too warm.
    4. The film has been exposed to another light source.
    5. The safelight lens (filter) is cracked or damaged.

  2. Why does exposed x-ray film occasionally have dark areas?
    Intermittent problems suggest process variation. Less-than-optimum imaging will occur if processing conditions drift out of ideal range. Processing chemistries must be:
    • Replenished daily.
    • Mixed correctly.
    • Stored at a temperature of 65-72°F (18.5-22°C).

  3. Why are my extraoral x-rays covered with black dots?
    A consistent pattern suggests a dirt or artifact problem. Gently clean the surface of the intensifying screen with Kodak Intensifying Screen Cleaner and Antistatic Solution, Catalog No. 1064930. Cleaning instructions are packaged with the product. Another cause is dirty processor rollers. Remove the rollers and clean them thoroughly. If this does not correct the problem, replace the cassette with one that is designed for use with the screen.

    Static may cause either extraoral or intraoral films to be covered with black dots or lines that look like tree branches. This is common during the winter months when office conditions are dry. You can minimize static discharge by:

    • Adding a humidifier to the office area.
    • Opening the cassette or film packets slowly.

  4. I have two processors. Why is the film from one processor foggy and dark?
    If one of the processors generates good images, exposure can probably be eliminated as a cause of the problem. Something is most likely happening to the film during processing. Check the processor cycle time and chemical temperature to make sure they are correct. Chemical cross-contamination can also make film appear foggy and dark. Run a test using a sheet of film that has not been exposed to see if the problem recurs.

  5. How can fogged images be avoided?
    If the safelight lens (filter) is scratched, cracked, or damaged, it may leak enough light to fog the film. Try processing a test film with the safelight turned off. See What is Safelighting? (FAQ4522).

Panoramic Images Distorted

Why do panoramic images distort the size and shape of the back teeth?
This is often caused by patient movement or improper positioning. Position the patient according to the manufacturer's recommendations. Head positioning devices and chin rests are important for accurate placement. Take the time to position the patient correctly! Ask the patient to remove the following:

  • Eyeglasses.
  • All jewelry or other metallic ornaments.
  • Any devices on or around the head and neck area.
  • Full or partial dentures.

Be sure to instruct the patient how to bite on the bite block, to close his/her lips, and place their tongue against the roof of their mouth. The patient's back and shoulders should be covered with a panoramic-leaded apron.

Go Here for Five Tips for Better Panoramic X-rays.


Can blue film be used with a green screen?
No. When dental x-ray film is exposed, radiation from the x-ray unit strikes an intensifying screen. The intensifying screen converts x-ray radiation to visible light, which images the film. Dental x-ray film is sensitized to visible light, but only to light in a specific part of the color spectrum. Some films are sensitized to light in the blue part of the spectrum and others to light in the green part of the spectrum. For this reason, you must use each type of film with the correct screen: blue-sensitive film must be used with a blue screen (which emits blue light), and green-sensitive film must be used with a green screen (which emits green light).

Kodak is a trademark of Eastman Kodak Company.

Frequently Asked Questions provide information of limited or specific application. Responsibility for judging the applicability of the information for a specific use rests with the end user.