Intraoral cameras

July 1, 2004
While rapidly increasing interest in digital radiography has been primarily responsible for the increased demand for technology in the dental practice, intraoral cameras should not be overlooked.

Lorne Lavine, DMD

While rapidly increasing interest in digital radiography has been primarily responsible for the increased demand for technology in the dental practice, intraoral cameras should not be overlooked. They provide an incredible tool for the practitioner who wants to involve patients in their diagnosis and treatment. Intraoral cameras have been used for dental applications since the early 1990s. Recent surveys have shown that intraoral cameras are found in about 50 percent of all dental offices, which seems to indicate they may have reached their peak in this regard. Anyone who has used an intraoral camera is aware of the advantages that these systems offer:

1) Most cameras are capable of magnifying images at a significant level. This can be an invaluable tool in allowing the dentist to see pathology — such as open margins, fractures, and caries — that wouldn't easily be seen without this level of magnification.

2) The ability to have images on a computer monitor screen that is visible to the patient is a huge benefit. Most experts agree that one of the keys to improving patient acceptance of our treatment plans is the concept of "co-diagnosis." In other words, allowing patients to see the problems that we see will allow them to participate in the diagnosis of their dental problems. They will then be more inclined to accept our recommendations for treating problems that they may have been previously unaware of.

3) The cameras allow us to have a permanent record of a patient's condition before we begin treatment. This can be quite beneficial for cosmetic cases, where we can show patients "before" and "after" photos of their teeth. Also, for legal reasons, it will often be valuable to have a record of a patient's condition before treatment begins, just in case the patient is unhappy with the results and decides to consider legal action.

When evaluating intraoral cameras, a number of factors should be considered. I would highly recommend that anyone considering the purchase of an intraoral camera attend a dental meeting where many of the vendors will be on hand and you can evaluate the various aspects of the cameras. Some of these features include:

• Ability to handle multiple views. According to Clinical Research Associates, six standard intraoral-camera views should be evaluated when choosing a camera. The views are divided into intraoral and extraoral views. The intraoral views are the distal of the upper last molar, the buccal of the upper last molar, and the lingual surfaces of the lower anterior teeth. As far as the extraoral shots are concerned, test the camera's ability to take a full-lower arch, a full-face photo, and a photo of a bitewing radiograph lighted by an X-ray view box. Test all of these shots to see which camera can handle the majority of them with ease.

• Portability. Many dentists have large offices. To conserve costs, they will consider using a camera that can easily be moved from one operatory to another. Many of the modern USB cameras were designed for just this purpose.

• Ease of focus. Does the camera require manual focus or is it autofocus? Most cameras have an adjustable focus, so you should evaluate how easy it is to change the focus. The focus should be well-labeled, and it should have a range-of-motion that is less than 100 degrees, so that you can easily change the focus setting with one hand.

• Built-in freeze-frame. Many of the newer models do not have this feature, and some people prefer this element to be included with the system.

• Capture button location. Most units use a foot pedal to capture individual images, but other models have the capture button right on the handpieces. For many dentists, this is simply a matter of personal preference, so you should try both types of systems to see which feels most comfortable for you.

• Maximum number of images displayed. The standard number is four images that can be displayed simultaneously. However, I've seen systems that only allow one image at a time, and other systems that will allow 16, 20, or 25+ images to be displayed.

Dentists should evaluate intraoral cameras that can give them the best combination of image quality, ease of use, and portability to find the best system for their practice.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer repair technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at (866) 204-3398. Visit his Web site at

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