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Radiographic errors

Radiographic errors – There are three major areas in which incorrect procedures cause errors:

1. Projection. How the X-ray source is positioned in relation to the film.

2. Exposure. How films are positioned in relation to the teeth and the collimator.

3. Processing. How the film is developed.

Some of the Common radiographic errors

(i) Apical Area Missing is one of the Radiographic errors. There are two reasons why the apical area is missing. Either the film is not parallel to the long axis of the tooth or the film is too far below the incisal or occiusal edge.

ii Overlapping. Overlapping is caused by an incorrect horizontal angle of the Pm.

iii Foreshortening. Foreshortening is caused by too steep of a vertical angle of the PID.

(iv) Elongation. Elongation is caused by a vertical angle that is not steep enough.

(v) Cone Cutting. Cone cutting occurs when the film is not centered in the path of the primary beam.

(vi) Dark Lines on the Film. Bending or creasing the film, which breaks the emulsion, causes dark lines on the film.

(vii) Film Too Light (Thin Image). Light film images are caused by under- development, a low mA setting, and too short of an exposure time.

(viii) Film Too Dark (Dense). Dark film is caused by overdeveloping, too high mA or kVp settings, and too long of an exposure time.

(ix) Partial Image. If only a partial image develops on the film, the film was placed incorrectly iii relation to the teeth or structures being examined.

(x) Fogged Film. Out-of-date film, a light leak in the darkroom, the film’s exposure to secondary or scattered radiation, contaminated developer, or the film being placed in the water before developer can cause a fogged film

(xi) Haze. A herringbone pattern at one end of the film or overall haze indicates that the film is placed backwards in the mouth. To correct, make sure the plain side of the film faces the CR.

(xii) Dot Interfering with Apical Area. A dot interfering with the apical area can be caused by two errors. Either the dot is not placed in the film holder or the dot is not at the incisal or occlusal surface. Both errors can be corrected by checking the dot placement during the assembly of the XCP instrument.

(xiii) Double Exposure. A double exposure occurs when the same film is exposed in two different areas.

(xiv) Blurred Image. The patient, film, or tube head moving during exposure causes a blurred image.

(xv) Superimposed Objects. Superimposed objects can interfere with the area being radiographed. They are caused by poor patient position and failure to remove objects such as earrings and necklaces.

(xvi) Spots or Streaks. Spots or streaks are errors indicated by white spots caused by solutions and water spills splashed on the film during darkroom procedures; dark spots caused by developer splashed on the film before it is processed; and white spots caused by air bubbles on the film. Streaks are caused by dried solutions left on film rack clips and by dirty developer, fixer, or water. These errors can be corrected by keeping spills cleaned up and counters dry, agitating dry films when placed in fixer, and keeping film racks and solutions clean and tanks scrubbed.

(xvii) Static Electricity. Static electricity causes dark root-like lines in the radiographic image. Static electricity is caused by friction. The light from static electricity can affect films, This happens mostly in panoramic films. Do not hurry when loading films between the intensifying screens or removing them from the cassette to develop them.

(xviii) Scratches on Film. Careless handling of film causes scratches on film. To correct this problem, hold the film by the edges.

(xix) Reticulation. Reticulation (a condition in which the emulsion peels from the film base) is caused by two factors. Either the film is taken from too hot a solution to too cold a solution causing the emulsion to crack, or the film is left in the water for a long period of time causing the emulsion to soften. To correct these problems, watch the solution temperatures and make sure no films are left n the darkroom tanks overnight.

(xx) Saliva Stain. A saliva stain is caused by failure to wipe the film packet before opening it to process.

(xxi) Cutoff image. A cutoff image at the top or bottom of the film, is either caused by low-level solutions (indicated by a wavy line) or films that were overlapped on the rack (indicated by a straight line).

(xxii) Brown Haze. Brown haze is caused by dried fixer on film.


A dental assistant must prepare the radiograph for the doctor’s interpretation and diagnosis by placing the films in a special cardboard or plastic holder. The mounted radiograph will present a view of the patient’s mouth with underlying conditions and structures visible.

There are four purposes for mounting of radiographs:

1. Enables the doctor to view the radiographic images in proper anatomic sequence.

2. Eliminates confusion of conditions found on the left or right side of the mouth and confirms charted conditions.

3. Makes reading and interpreting easier.

4. Prevents loss or scratching of films in the dental charts.

About Dr. Muna

Dr. Muna Taqi is a Dental surgeon from India who has more than 10 years of experience in the field of Oral & Maxillofacial surgery, Endodontics, & Pedodontics. She has worked in multinational medical corporates in Middle East and is also a consultant dental surgeon for many. She has authored many articles for medical journals & websites and is a consultant dental expert for Healthdrip.

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