Photography in Your Surgery 

As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in dentistry this is especially true for your technician. While a written description of a patient’s requirements can usually give the technician a reasonable idea of what you are aiming to achieve, an accompanying set of photographs can aid the technician in crafting a perfect crown or prosthesis. A great many dentists do not necessarily share a background in photography, however in the context of dentistry, it is not an enormously difficult skill to pick up, and can add a lot in terms of the precision of your aesthetic and restorative treatments.

The starting point for dental photography obviously lies with the camera itself; selecting an appropriate, quality camera is essential to great results. Many dentists opt to simply use the camera built into their mobile phone and send their images via email immediately. This may seem convenient, and in some cases with suitably expensive phones it may even yield adequate results, however it is ideal to use a DSLR type camera with a sensor of at least 10 megapixels for optimum quality and resolution. As DSLRs are also modular and can be highly customised for different purposes, with the right additional components you can get the best shots of a patient’s teeth. The lens is the most important of these customisation options, as different lenses can yield wildly different results with the same camera, even when on identical settings.

As photographing a patient’s dentition involves a lot of close-ups, dental photography could very well be compared to macro-photography, as used when taking photographs of insects or other very small objects. Macro- lenses offer extremely close focal points (usually within a matter of millimetres). Macro lenses can also be fitted with an LED ring to provide optimum light at extreme close-ups.

Now that you have the appropriate equipment, you must be sure to use the appropriate settings to achieve the best results. This will involve calibrating the camera’s white balance to suit the light in your practice, which should be a fairly simple procedure as most DSLRs come with an auto-white balance feature, however it can be performed manually with relative ease. Simply take a photo of a plain piece of white paper and examine the photo. If the paper appears yellow, the white balance needs to be increased. If it looks blue, the white balance must be decreased. Find the white balance menu in the camera’s settings and the means to make these adjustments should become apparent. Once the white balance has been properly calibrated, you should be ready to take some photographs.

When it comes to taking pictures of your patient, it is important to remember that clarity is the key to giving the technician a usable image. The background you use should be as plain as possible so as to not confuse the image and keep the focus upon the patient’s dentition. You should acquire images of a full-face profile of the patient, as well as close up shots of their dentition with cheeks retracted. In order to achieve shots of the backs of the teeth, it is ideal to make use of an intraoral mirror, preferably with a fan system to prevent fogging, and a light source to give the clearest images possible.

Remember that the patient may have some anxiety about having their picture taken, which will no doubt be increased while sat in the dentist’s chair wearing cheek retractors. As such, practitioners should attempt to put their patients at ease. Perhaps tell a joke, or look at the nurse rather than at the camera all the time. These techniques are particularly useful taking full-face profile shots where a natural smile is required.

Finally, when you have taken your photographs, it is important to provide the technician with everything they need to produce the best restoration they can. Even with the white balance correctly calibrated, the colours in a photograph can be misleading, so it is always recommended to include a shade tab with the images to give the technician the most accurate shade and tooth characteristics to work with.

Dental photography is an ideal means of giving your technician that extra insight into the dentition of each specific patient. Combined with written descriptions, shade tabs and dental impressions, technicians should have everything they need to produce a truly superior prosthesis that your patient will truly be happy with.

For more information on how CosTech Elite® can help you, call 01474 320 076 or email: