Manual Processing Vs Automatic Processing
Film processing is a procedure that converts the invisible latent image on the x-ray film into a visible image. This image is called a radiograph. Film processing can be done manually or automatically.
There are five steps in manually processing dental x-ray film. First is developing the film, which is followed by rinsing. Rinsing preserves the acidity of the fixer and extends its life. Then the film is submerged in the fixer solution. This is done to remove the unexposed and/or undeveloped silver halide crystals. The next step is to wash the film in running water. The fifth step is drying the film so it can be stored as a permanent record.
Manual film processing requires the use of a processing tank. It is more reliable because there is no chance of equipment malfunction. However, it does take much longer to produce a finished radiograph. Another advantage is that manual film processing has the ability to produce a wet reading. Equipment required: processing tank, thermometer, timer, stirring paddles or rods, film hangers, drying rack, and drip pans. The ideal time-temperature for manual processing is 68ºF (20ºC) for five minutes. A colder development solution involves a longer developing time and warmer needs a shorter developing time.
Automatic film processing is usually preferred over manual film processing. This is because it can produce a larger volume of radiographs in a shorter period of time. It takes about five minutes from developer to dried finish. Another benefit is that the unit automatically regulates the temperature of the processing solutions and the time of the entire development process.
Unfortunately, the unit is rather expensive and subject to equipment malfunction. More maintenance is required as well. Automatic processors need more diligence and care than most of the other equipment involved in oral health care.
A chairside darkroom is used to produce radiographs by the rapid processing method. Films that are manually processed with specific developer and fixer produces an image in less than a minute. The steps for processing films using the rapid processing method are the same as the steps used for manual processing. The benefit of rapid processing is that it fulfills the need to obtain information quickly. The films will eventually discolor. Rapid processing is not supposed to replace conventional processing.