Storing Visual Images

Dentistry is a visual art. For years, we have used verbal skills to educate patients to accept treatment while expecting them to conjure up their own visualization of problems and solutions. Advances in electronics technologies make it possible, practical and affordable to capture, view and store images on the computer`s hard drive, printing them out on a standard black-and-white or color computer printer.

Steven M. Seltzer, MBA

Dentistry is a visual art. For years, we have used verbal skills to educate patients to accept treatment while expecting them to conjure up their own visualization of problems and solutions. Advances in electronics technologies make it possible, practical and affordable to capture, view and store images on the computer`s hard drive, printing them out on a standard black-and-white or color computer printer.

I will discuss two off-the-shelf

products used for capturing digital images: Snappy (retail price approximately $190) and the Matrox Mystique and Rainbow Runner video capture suite (retail price approximately $350 for both products). Snappy produces high quality images using software supplied with the product and requires minimal hardware installation and configuration. The Matrox Mystique and Rainbow Runner products are an incredible state-of-the-art combination of hardware and software that require physically installing circuit boards in the computer. The Matrox products are 100 times better than Snappy if you have a technician install them and you learn how to use them properly.

Use these digital capture products to:

- Educate patients.

- Place images in visual treatment proposals and computer presentations.

- Create patient "take home" intraoral video tours.

Seltzer Institute`s clients are incorporating patients` images into eye-popping computer presentations that eliminate the need for slide projectors and X-ray view boxes. The presentations are created in less than five minutes using "templates" containing pertinent information for the patient`s needs. You simply add the patient-specific images, type the patient`s name and the presentation is ready-to-go.

If you use a large-screen system, such as the Gateway 2000 Destination PC with a 31-inch monitor (that`s right, 31 inches!), your patient`s attention will be riveted to the screen.

Capturing images that can be stored and manipulated on your computer is the first step to developing this incredibly effective and fun high-tech approach to presenting dentistry.

Snappy Image Digitizer

Snappy digitizes images from virtually any video camera, including intraoral cameras and camcorders. Plug Snappy into the printer port of any Windows PC. Plug the video cable from the intraoral camera or camcorder into Snappy, and it is ready to capture snapshots of patients` mouths into a computer-compatible digital format. Images can be printed on standard computer printers, including laser printers, color ink jet printers, and the Fargo FotoFun digital dye sublimation color printer.

Snappy requires Microsoft Windows, connects to a standard "RCA" type video jack, which is the same as the standard jack that plugs into a VCR. Some intraoral cameras have a BNC connector (twists on and off). Adapters may be purchased from most video stores or Radio Shack.

You can contact the manufacturer at (800) 306-7529 and request a demo disk containing sample images captured with Snappy, a brochure and list of distributors. They also have a website: http://www.play.com and BBS: 916-983-3288.

Matrox Video Capture Cards

Matrox Mystique video card and Matrox Rainbow Runner Studio video capture card are two products that are installed inside the PC. They provide a vast array of incredibly powerful features, including:

- Displaying video images on the computer screen.

- Capturing and digitizing images from intraoral cameras and camcorders.

- Displaying images simultaneously on the computer screen and an ordinary TV monitor.

- Capturing streaming video (storage requirements are about 1MB of hard drive space per second of video at 30 frames per second), storing it on the hard drive, and then selecting individual frames for printing. This feature eliminates foot pedals and pushbuttons to freeze an image using conventional methods.

The features in these Matrox products are phenomenal. Most dentists will need a computer technician to configure the products. Budget 10 to 20 hours to learn the basic operation of the system.

Snappy and the Matrox cards are not as easy-to-use or customized for operation in dentistry as are other dental-specific products. They produce good-to-excellent results and are a great way to get started with digitizing images.

Snappy is manufactured by PLAY Incorporated, which can be contacted at (800) 306-PLAY. The Matrox Mystique and Rainbow Runner Studio are manufactured by Matrox Graphics, which can be contacted at (800) 361-1408 or www.matrox.com/mga.

You no longer have to settle for words alone to communicate with patients. Don`t overlook the training that is necessary to learn the technologies, to learn how to apply them to your practice`s circumstances, and to develop verbal skills to get the best results.

Steven Seltzer is the president of Seltzer Institute and publisher of DDRT (Dentists` Desktop Reference to Technology). The Seltzer Institute offers techno-marketing consulting services. He can be contacted at (800) 229-8967, ext 103. E-mail: sseltzer@hitecdentist.com. Internet: www.hitechdentist.com.

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