Modern dentistry is dynamic. Changes to improve patient comfort and quality of care are always being developed. The use of improved dental materials, modern delivery systems, lasers, computer-generated imaging, and computer management software systems are just some of the changes.
DIGITAL DENTAL CAMERA TECHNOLOGY
Q: What are dental digital clinical cameras?
A: Pictures are now taken digitally at dental offices to capture images inside and outside the mouth. Digital refers to a method of replacing photographic film with a computer-generated image. Reusable electronic sensors and computer technology are used to capture and store the images. The image is then displayed on a computer monitor screen.
Two types of cameras are used: small pen-shaped, wand-style devices or traditional digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) devices. DSLRs are used outside the mouth, utilizing mirrors to film intraorally.
In the late 1980s, the first digital camera was invented for intraoral use. The wand-style camera had its own computer, floppy disc, VCR and monitor — with a $40,000 price tag.
New cameras have come down in size and price, and they use USB connections to work with office computers, dental software and monitor displays.
Q: What are the benefits of a dental digital examination?
A: The dentist uses the pictures to capture images to reveal diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues that may not be seen during a mirror examination of the mouth. Findings include decay, infections, abscesses, and other soft tissue problems. Early detection can save time, money and discomfort. These photographs can be compared over time to observe changes or used as before and after records.
Q: Is there an advantage to using digital technology?
A: Among the advantages of digital technology are quickly captured graphics with immediate viewing; the images can be printed or emailed to specialists or insurance carriers. Claims state that quality computer images will last 100 years and there are environmental advantages of not printing every image, part of a “greener” dental office.
The digital image can be seen as a larger-than-life image on a monitor. This allows the dentist to magnify problem areas for better viewing.
The image on the monitor can be used for patient education, communication and saved for documentation.
Q: Why doesn’t every dentist use digital imaging?
A: As with all new, high-technology techniques and equipment, not all dentists are exposed to the what, why and how’s during their professional training.
Digital cameras were introduced to dentistry in 1989. No longer experimental technology, the cameras present a technique that has replaced film images. However, there is a high cost for computers in all treatment areas, practice-management and imaging software, software support agreements, and new digital camera and printing equipment.
Dental offices utilizing digital intraoral cameras will continue to increase in number and are sure to lead the way to increased and improved patient services and better patient care.