To evaluate the quality of young adults' radiographs exposed and processed under everyday clinical conditions.
One administrative unit of the Finnish public oral health service.
Two reviewers independently evaluated the radiographs by the same written criteria that were designed as a checklist for on-site evaluations, without any further calibration.
In total, 312 radiographs (178 bitewing, 88 periapical and 46 panoramic) from 1990 to 1996, collected from patient documents of a randomly selected sample of young adults born in 1966-1971.
Radiographs were assessed by quality indicators pertinent to the clinical utility as acceptable or unacceptable. If erroneous by some indicator(s) but still contributing to the diagnostic information, a radiograph was rated as diagnostically acceptable. A score of quality points was calculated for each radiograph.
The overall kappa statistics for intra-examiner reliability was 0.63, the proportional agreement 83%. For inter-examiner reliability, 0.42 and 71%, respectively. Although the evaluation criteria took the clinical utility of the radiographs into consideration, only 15% of bite-wings, 13% of periapicals, and 2% of panoramics received the maximum quality points. Erroneous film positioning was the most common fault on intraoral radiographs. On panoramics, the most frequent faults were in density and contrast and in patient positioning. The radiological evaluation had only been recorded for less than one fifth of the films.
A proportion of radiographs fell short of the ideal. There is room for improvement in the quality of radiography in order to obtain the greatest possible diagnostic yield from the exposed radiographs.