DENTISTRY · October 28th, 2018

How to Save Dental X-Ray Sensors from Bite Damage

by Thomas Fatora, DVM


As an NVA dental advocate, I regularly meet with hospitals to help with them enhance their dentistry programs. During these visits, I am always astounded by how often clinics have to replace dental X-ray sensors due to bite damage.

The scenario is always the same: While a patient is under anesthesia, its blood pressure drops, so the gas level is decreased. Suddenly, the patient gets a bit light and chomps its carnassial teeth down on the sensor. You are now the owner of one useless sensor.

In the Blink of an Eye

A patient’s transition from a deep plane of anesthesia to waking up and biting down on the sensor happens in the blink of an eye. Some techs look for a “blink reflex” as a warning signal, but by then it’s often too late. The truth is, there is no such thing as a bite-proof sensor; it doesn’t take much force to ruin one. And depending on your warranty, a second sensor may cost you a lot more than you expect. So how do we prevent our expensive dental X-ray sensors from being destroyed?

The good news is, it’s avoidable:

  1. Be aware of the risks. Who hasn’t been bit or almost bit when intubating a light patient?
  2. When placing the sensor between those carnassial teeth, treat it as if it were your own fingers.
  3. Use some form of a bite block to prevent sensor damage.

Bite Blocks

Whatever you use to prevent bite down, it’s important to not prop the jaw open to its maximal extension. Do not use metal spring-loaded jaw spreaders. They can cause the patient pain or may result in injury.

Instead, consider purchasing “Props” from Dentalaire:

Dentalaire props.

Or… make your own bite block!

You can easily construct a bite block from hard packing foam (the kind used to ship computer equipment). And you can hold the sensor in place with a piece of soft foam (the kind found in electronic packages). The price is right and you can shape it into any size you need.

DIY foam bite block. I used a rather large piece for demonstration purposes, but you may not need ones this big.

Here’s how to do it:

1. Cut a piece of hard foam. You don’t need a very big piece.
2. Place it as a bite block between the opposite carnassial teeth or the canine teeth. (Whichever will not obstruct your ability to take x-rays.)
3. The hard foam is so stiff that it can’t be crushed by a bite.
4. Cut a piece of soft foam.
5. Use the soft foam to hold your sensor in place. (NOTE: Do not use your fingers to hold the sensor in place while shooting X-Rays)

Using these bite blocks will help you:

  • Protect the sensor from getting crushed (while saving you $10,000 of your Cap-X dollars)
  • Hold the sensor in place in the back of the mouth when shooting 311 & 411
  • Keep the tongue and other soft tissue away from your drill bit
  • Hide the endotracheal tube and tongue in your photos

Watch this one-minute video to learn how to trim the foam and where to place it:

Interested in jumpstarting your dental care program? Visit the Medical Advisory Board’s Dental Health page for tools and resources to train your team and educate clients, as well as templates for sharing photos and x-rays.

For more information about dentistry contact our NVA dentistry support manager Catherine Carpenter at

If you have a question or feedback on this article, post it in the comments below, or email Dr. Thomas Fatora at

Thomas Fatora, DVM


NVA Hospitals | Frisco, CO

Comment on this

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



How Flat-Fee Pricing Can Increase Dental Visits

Northeast Division leader Julie Dunn highlights how hospitals might attract more dental clients with simplified pricing.

by Julie Dunn


Using Photography for Dental Exams

Tips and tricks for capturing images during your dental exams from NVA's dental advocate.

by Thomas Fatora, DVM


Counting Teeth the Easy Way

These 4 tips can help improve how you monitor your patient’s mouth.

by Thomas Fatora, DVM