Th 138162

Smile for the camera!

Nov. 1, 2003
For the past few years, many of us in dentistry have been watching the evolvement of digital photography. It's an interesting time in dentistry; we are witnessing a profession in a major transition.

by Ken A. Neuman, DMD, FAGD, FADI, FICD, FACD

For the past few years, many of us in dentistry have been watching the evolvement of digital photography. It's an interesting time in dentistry; we are witnessing a profession in a major transition.

We have witnessed changing disease patterns where the emphasis on prevention, the use of fluorides, and an increased awareness by the public have collectively decreased the amount of dental decay that was so prevalent when I graduated in 1964.

We are also witnessing changing trends in our profession, influenced by manpower distribution problems, a decreased demand for traditional services, and a large increase in what I'll call "optional services related to appearance." We have seen the transition enter strongly into the technology areas of dentistry. Many offices are now computerized and focusing on the positive influences of our communication as we introduce technology into our day-to-day vocabulary. This technology is helping patients better understand their problems. Instead of showing a patient areas of concern by having him or her look into a small #5 mirror or holding a cosmetic hand mirror to see cracked fillings, gum irritation, or whatever else needs to be seen, we can now show these things by using a digital intraoral camera or a digital camera that allows us to take images from the camera to a computer very rapidly. Properly used, digital photography can provide our patients with a much better understanding of their problems. I believe that if patients cannot see their problems, they may often choose not to accept the solutions.

In a 2002 survey, dentists were asked the top five items on their interest list for the year. The results were:

1) Digital photography system ... 43 percent
2) Digital still camera ... 43 percent
3) LCD flat-panel monitor ... 38 percent
4) Telescopic loupes ... 32 percent
5) High-speed Internet connection ... 28 percent

When we use photography with our patients, we give them the ultimate benefit that was proposed so well by Dr. Robert Barkley in the late 1970s. He discussed the benefits of co-discovery and co-diagnosis, where patients were allowed to participate in their treatment planning.

The quality of digital photography increased tremendously the past two years when the cameras went to 3 megapixels and above. Several of the commonly used digital cameras for dentistry can be found on the following page.

Digital photography will improve our diagnosis and, as a result, simplify treatment planning. The visualization afforded by digital photography will enhance communication between patient and dentist, as well as dentist and lab. As this communication is enhanced, we become more comfortable in discussions with our patients about their problems. When properly used, the benefit of having the patient as our top priority makes everyone a winner.

To properly assess which digital camera is for you, decide what you will do with the camera, then try out different models for the same photos and decide which is best for you. It may be the feel, the size, or the quality of the photo. Whatever it is, you owe it to yourself to try various models before making your choices. Watch for digital photography workshops at your local conventions to get a hands-on approach to this new technology.

The author would like to thank Wayne Rees from PracticeWorks/Dicom for his assistance in this article, and in setting up the many workshops that you will find in the future.

Digital or conventional...what's the difference?

Let's look at some of the advantages of digital photography versus conventional photography using film.

1) Cost is high on the list of advantages. Film with digital photography is a small disk, a little larger than a postage stamp. These disks have memory ranging from 8 megabytes to 256 megabytes. These tiny disks can store up to 300 images and can then be downloaded to a computer. The disk can be used over and over.
2) Speed is another advantage, as photos can be immediately viewed after they are taken.
3) Convenience. If you don't like the photo you took, you can discard it and take another one right away. With traditional film, you would have to wait until it was returned hours or days later.
4) Filing, storage, and archiving of digital photos are much easier than with traditional film. Using programs such as the Dicom imaging software, storage becomes an almost automatic task.

Nikon Coolpix 5400
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* 5.1 megapixels
* 4x ED Zoom-Nikkor lens
* 5.8-24mm focal range

Nikon D1X
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* 5.47 megapixels
* Six image quality modes
* 4x Zoom-Nikkor lens
* Interchangeable lenses

The Canon G3 from PhotoMed
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* 4.0 megapixels
* 3x optical zoom
* Swing out monitor
* Includes Macro lens

The Fuji S1 Pro
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* 3.4 Megapixel CCD
* USB interface
* NTSC/ PAL Switchable
* Nikon F mount
* 820 grams

The Kodak Easy Share
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* 4 megapixel
* Compact Flash (Type I)
* 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor
* Interchangeable Lens

New Kodak Pro 14n
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* 13.89 megapixel full-frame
* Magnesium-alloy body
* Built around a Nikon F100/F80
* Interchangeable Lens
* 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor
* Compact Flash (Type I/II)

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