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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 30  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 331-333

A new artifact!! – In life of a dental radiograph: A rare radiographic finding! Or a rare finding on a radiograph!!

1 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Jaipur Dental College, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
2 Department of Oral Medicine and Radiology, Career Post Graduate Institute of Dental Sciences, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

Date of Submission20-Apr-2018
Date of Acceptance18-May-2018
Date of Web Publication18-Oct-2018

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Vela D Desai
B-406, Trimurthy Appartments, Model Town, Opposite BSNL Telecom Colony, Malviya Nagar, Jaipur - 302 017, Rajasthan
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jiaomr.jiaomr_64_18

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Radiograph play as an important adjunct, in addition to history and clinical evaluation for the diagnosis of pathologies in head and neck region. A good and ideal diagnostic radiograph is essential for this purpose. An ideal radiograph is one that provides a great deal of information, the image exhibits proper density and contrast, have sharp outlines, and are of the same shape and size as the object being radiographed. Dental radiographs are subjected to various phases (procedures) right from the manufacturing and packaging until it is been exposed and processed. The diagnostic quality of a dental radiograph may be affected during any of these procedures and even after that. The authors here have noticed an interesting fault which is seldom mentioned in the literature.

Keywords: Artifact, faults, films, static electricity

How to cite this article:
Desai VD, Agarwal N. A new artifact!! – In life of a dental radiograph: A rare radiographic finding! Or a rare finding on a radiograph!!. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol 2018;30:331-3

How to cite this URL:
Desai VD, Agarwal N. A new artifact!! – In life of a dental radiograph: A rare radiographic finding! Or a rare finding on a radiograph!!. J Indian Acad Oral Med Radiol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Aug 7];30:331-3. Available from: https://www.jiaomr.in/text.asp?2018/30/3/331/243661

   Introduction Top

Artifact is a structure or an appearance that is not normally present on the radiograph and is produced by artificial means. Literature reveals that there are various causes of faults and artifacts occurring due to improper film handling, chemical contamination, etc.[1],[2] Identification of these is utmost important because they may sometime mimic pathologies or may obscure the area of interest.

Static electricity is an artifact which typically presents as thin, black branching lines on the film.[3] They result from opening a film packet quickly and usually in periods of low humidity. Also, synthetic material clothing and rubber-soled shoes of the film handler rubbing against carpet contribute to this. This can be prevented by placing a humidifier or container of water in the dark room during cold months when the heating system is working. Antistatic pad on the floor and handling film carefully can reduce these artifacts.[4],[5] In this article, the authors present some intraoral radiographs with some interesting findings.

   Case Report Top

[Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5] are intraoral peri-apical radiographs taken for different regions and for varied dental pathologies. An interesting finding in the radiographs was an unusual radiolucent appearance of a tree-like pattern along with brown stain [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5].
Figure 1: Intraoral periapical radiograph showing a thin delicate tree-like pattern

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Figure 2: Fine delicate Tree-like pattern with a dark brown oval-shaped appearance adjacent to it

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Figure 3: Uniform Tree-like pattern with a brown oval-shaped appearance on the film

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Figure 4: Tree-like pattern on the film

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Figure 5: Well-demarcated zig-zag pattern appreciated within the oval discoloration

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It was learnt that these radiographs were collected from the old undergraduate record books from the department of oral medicine and radiology. The radiographs might have been 1- or 2-year old. Bisecting angle technique was used followed by automatic method of film processing for all the radiographs. Later, films were attached in the record books with the help of a stapler pin along with the film packet. Some of the radiographs revealed an ovoid/pear-shaped yellowish to brown spots on the radiographs [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]. This spot on the film coincided and was in contact with the stapler pin. From one end of this pear-shaped spot their appeared a tree-like pattern on these radiographs [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]. This pattern was similar to the appearance of static electricity. But, in all the radiographs, the pattern was evident in contact with the brown spot (which was in contact with the stapler pin). It was almost of uniform size in all the radiographs. Also, all the radiographs had overall brown stains on the film. The tree-like pattern was visible on the surface of the film that corresponded to the stapler pin [Figure 6].
Figure 6: Tree-like pattern seen on the surface of the film

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   Discussion Top

Literature revealed that this type of artifact is not reported so far in the English literature, although the classic-tree like pattern resembled the artifact due to static electricity. Friction in handling the films is said to be the main cause. The other descriptive names are “lightnings,” or “Blitze,” “woolly worms,” “spiders,” and “trees” on radiographs.[6] The reason for this typical presentation is still not known. The authors presume that it could be a new type of artifact resulting probably due to static electricity. So what is static electricity?

Static electricity is an imbalance of electric charges within or on the surface of a material.[7] A static electric charge can be created whenever two surfaces contact and separate, and at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electric current (and is, therefore, an electrical insulator).[7],[8]

For example, static charge can be generated on a plastic pipe also by friction during the physical handling of the pipe. According to Sewerin,[6] there are four types of artifacts due to static electricity:

  1. Classic lightening
  2. Curves with spots
  3. Hitherto undescribed type resembling animals or cactus flowers
  4. Straight row of dots.

The radiographs here resemble the type III pattern of static effect, probably animal or flower pattern. The small 1 × 1 sized, almost uniformly formed, tree pattern could be explained due to static electricity, but its association with oval pattern of brown spot cannot be explained [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5]. The brown to yellow pattern is unique [Figure 4]. It presents with round multiple rings with shades of yellow that the author could not explain.

The appearance of the unique pattern resembles Lichtenberg figures. Lichtenberg figures are now known to occur during electrical breakdown processes within gases, insulating liquids, and solid dielectrics. Lichtenberg figures may be created within billionths of a second (nanoseconds) when dielectrics are subjected to very high electrical stress, or they may develop over years through a progressive series of small, low-energy, partial discharges.

The branching pattern of a Lichtenberg figure looks similar at various scales of magnification. This property is called “self-similarity,” and it suggests that Lichtenberg figures can be mathematically described through a branch of mathematics called Fractal Geometry.[9],[10] As in the present observation also, the pattern is similar in all images.

If it was due to static artifact, it could have been present on any surface of the film. But, in all the films, it is seen only with the pear-shaped artifact and this could be correlated to the constant contact and friction from the stapler pin.

Also, this presentation was not evident on the films, when they were exposed and processed. Only with due course of time this artifact has occurred. The reason for this could be because of friction from the stapler pin, that might have developed over years, through a progressive series of small, low-energy, partial discharges, or self-triggered sculpture.[11]

Improper processing procedures by the students might have resulted in the yellow to brown stain on the film.[7],[8] These films were kept in their record book for a long period of time. Humidity might have affected the film as well as the stapler pin, in turn, resulting in rusting of the metal. This could have resulted in the discoloration on the film with a new pattern of static effect [Figure 5], presenting as a zig-zag dark brown appearance in the center of the oval pattern. This may not hold hypothetical as all the films did not show uniform yellow discoloration on the surface of film.

Studies have stated that static artifacts occur only in extraoral films.[6] Artifacts should be limited to a minimum, and in order to do this, further studies are necessary to analyze at what point they arise during the handling of the film.

   Conclusion Top

This article presents new challenges with different presentation on the radiographic film which seldom is reported till date. This was a by chance finding of a tree-like uniform pattern associated with an ovoid shape. This presentation was unique and the author could correlate similar type of presentation in the literature. The authors have kept several films in observation to see if similar effect would be evident in the feature and that the exact reason could be confirmed.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Haring JI, Laura J. Dental Radiography Principals and Techniques. 2nd ed. Philadelphia: W.B Saunders; 2000. p. 145-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
Langland OE, Langlias RP, Preece JW. Principals of Dental Imaging. 2nd ed. Phildelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2002. p. 171.  Back to cited text no. 2
White CS, Pharoah MJ. Oral Radiology Principals and Interpretation. 4th ed. St. Louis London Phildelphia Sydney TorontoMosby; 2000. p. 104-5.  Back to cited text no. 3
Miles DA, Van Dis ML, Razmus TF. Basic Principles of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1992. p. 176, 181.  Back to cited text no. 4
Haring JI, Lind LJ. Radiographic Interpretation for the Dental Hygienist. Philadelphia: Saunders; 1993. p. 165.  Back to cited text no. 5
Sewerin IP. Artefacts due to static electricity in a dental school. Dentomaxillofac Radiol 1995;24:132-4.  Back to cited text no. 6
Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_charge. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 7
Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Static_electricity #References. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 8
Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lichtenberg_figure. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 9
Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Static_electricity# Fueling_operations. [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 10
Available from: https://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Partial_discharge [Last accessed on 2018 Mar 01].  Back to cited text no. 11


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4], [Figure 5], [Figure 6]


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