HOW TO PROFIT FROM...imagingThe ultimate tool in co-diagnosis

April 1, 2002
"A picture is worth a thousand words."

By Jeff Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD

"A picture is worth a thousand words." We have all heard this old adage and fully understand how much images can impact our practices. These images can be captured with a digital radiographic sensor, a digital camera, or an intraoral camera.

I've been discussing "Digital Diagnosis" for the past nine months and sincerely hope that every reader of Dental Economics has introduced these indispensable technologies into his or her practices or has plans to do so in the very near future.

Cosmetic imaging is a very powerful tool in dentistry. We are always looking for ways to enhance our abilities to communicate with our patients. Imaging allows us a way to create a new smile for our patients before performing any work on them. After all, we are able to fix broken teeth, close diastemas, recontour and reshape teeth, whiten teeth, straighten teeth, and reshape gingival contours and appearance. We merely need to let our patients know about our capabilities.

Most people appreciate the ability to see what changes can be made to their teeth and/or soft tissues. Once they can visualize what cosmetic dentistry can do for them, they are more willing to make decisions about our recommended treatment. Patients also enjoy taking part in the imaging process. They enjoy having the opportunity to view themselves with all of the different optional treatments at their disposal.

Most things are bought on a wants basis, not a needs basis. As Dr. Harold Wirth said, "People have money for what they want whether they need it or not. It's our job to make them want what they need." Nothing is more powerful than the patient actually seeing what he or she would look like with an improved smile.

The first basic requirement for imaging is to have a camera and some sort of image-management software. This setup will allow you to capture and store images. These images can come from digital cameras, intraoral cameras, or digital radiographic sensors. Once you have images stored, you can use the photo-editing tools in an imaging-software package to manipulate those images.

Numerous software packages are available that will do an excellent job with cosmetic imaging. Some of the better programs are: Image Explorer with its Whitening Module and Image Simulation Module from Dicom Imaging Systems/Practice Works; Vipersoft from Integra Medical; Image FX from SciCan; and Digital Dentist from Digident.

These software packages provide you with image-manipulation tools that enable you to simulate and personalize the results of suggested treatment procedures. Your patients then will be able to actually see how they would look before committing to any procedure. Cosmetic imaging becomes the ultimate tool in patient communication and co-diagnosis. Its internal and external marketing potential is limitless. Imaging also can be useful in communicating with your laboratory technicians. You can create an image of what you want and send it to your lab to help the technicians deliver work that fulfills your aesthetic vision.

Digital imaging will deliver a number of benefits to your practice. You will be able to increase your treatment-acceptance rate and improve communication with your patients. However, it will take you and your staff some training time to master this process. But with a little practice, this will become a very enjoyable task. Creating a beautiful smile for our patients can be a work of art. But we need to remember that patients cannot understand what we can do for them unless we show it to them first.

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