New Portable Dental X-ray Unit “Magical”

Dr. Bruce Pynn (right) and Dr. Frank Mauro demonstrating how the new handheld dental X-ray unit can be used at the bedside anywhere in our Hospital for patients who are not mobile. Our Hospital is only the second site in Ontario to have this new unit which was funded, in part, through a Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant thanks to generosity of donors.

Sometimes what the dentist can see during an exam is literally just the tip of what’s happening underneath. That’s why X-rays are the standard of care for patients. However, many patients including some in Critical Care (ICU), oncology, and cardiac are not mobile enough leave their room. Now, thanks in part to a Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Foundation Family CARE Grant, those X-rays will come to them.

The Department of Dentistry at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre purchased a portable X-ray unit with this funding. The hand-held device moves where the dentists move and can be used right at the patient’s bedside. Dr. Bruce Pynn, Chief of Dentistry & Oral Maxillofacial Surgery at our Hospital, called it “magical.”

“You can use it in any room in the Hospital now,” Dr. Pynn said. “You attach the sensor to your laptop, and Poof! you get the image directly. That’s the new digital world.”

Dr. Pynn said he’s called for dental consults throughout the Hospital. For example, he could be called to the ICU to investigate a neck abscess, which is often caused by dental issues. However, patients may be intubated or there may be other circumstances that prevent them from leaving their rooms. Even if they could be moved, they may be unconscious and therefore unable to hold themselves up.

“We have a new Panorex X-ray in Diagnostic Imaging, which shows you all the teeth and jaws in one image. But you must be able to sit or stand to take those images,” Dr. Pynn said.

When mobility is an issue, Dr. Pynn said that the only option is to do a visual exam, talk to family members for a medical/dental history, and track down any past X-rays. However, that sometimes takes days, which in turn slows down diagnosis and treatment.

The new portable unit solves all those problems.

“We dentists always like to have a current X-ray because there could be something going on below the surface that you can’t see,” he said. “This new unit improves patient care and safety.”

Any patients at our Hospital who are not able to go for X-rays will benefit from this new technology. Dr. Pynn said it will also be useful for forensics.

As far as Dr. Pynn knows, our Hospital is one of a handful in Canada and only the second site in Ontario to get this new unit. The first was the University Health Network (UHN) in Toronto, where Dr. Pynn’s friend and colleague Dr. Michael Glogauer pushed for Health Canada approval to bring this technology to Canada. Dr. Pynn said that the Health Sciences Centre now has the trifecta of dental imaging capabilities in Ontario: Panorex, digital X-ray in the operating room, and now the portable unit – again, something that only UHN can say as well. However, given the unit’s price and flexibility, he expects that other hospitals and even dentist’s offices will quickly adopt this new imaging method.

Generous donors are improving patient care at our Hospital every day! Funding for the hand-held X-ray unit came jointly from a Family CARE Grant and the Thunder Bay Dental Association. You can help fund similar projects that take a relatively small amount of money to make a big difference in patient care. Make your donation online at and type “Family CARE Grant” in the Message box. You can also call our Donation Centre directly at (807) 345-4673.