The application of photography in dental pathology dates back to 1840, when the first dental school opened alongside the world’s first photo gallery.1 Dentists R. Thompson and W. Elde were the first to document intraoral images before and after dental procedures in 1848, paving the way for future advances in dental diagnosis and therapy, such as the creation of the HD intraoral camera (IOC).
I have worked hand in hand in these two areas, with clinical photography becoming an essential aspect of a patient’s medical record and treatment strategy. Dental decisions are now almost impossible to make without using a CIO. CIOs have grown in importance as valuable tools for presenting information, maintaining records and educating patients.
History of intraoral imaging
Over the past two decades, most dental patients have seen images of the inside of their mouths, as cameras of various types have become a necessity in virtually every dental office, regardless of their specialty. However, many years ago this was not the case, when only x-rays and scans with images incomprehensible to patients were the norm. Over half a century ago, dentists began to research a camera that would allow patients to see precisely what dentists see.
More by the author:
In the 1970s, instant cameras became the solution for immediate photographic results. Then, in the 1980s, computers began to play a more important role in dentistry. Revolutionary new IOCs coupled with video capabilities have allowed patients to look inside their mouths in real time, with the dentist.2
Nevertheless, the first dental IOCs were cumbersome. They took up a lot of space and were expensive, up to $ 40,000 each. These days, complete IOC systems cost a fraction of the cost, with some costing just a few hundred dollars. Bulky docking stations have been replaced with lighter USB connections that are easier to use and produce better quality photographs. Due to these important developments in dental technology, the CIO has become an integral part of every dental practice.
Why Imaging Can Elevate Your Mapping, Patient Records
For years, dental professionals have had difficulty describing a patient’s clinical situation and justifying proposed treatment plans. There was always a certain degree of insecurity when there was no physical evidence to support the dentist’s claims. IOCs provide visual transparency, allowing dentists and patients to communicate more effectively. Patients can now see what their dentists see: precise, magnified details of their teeth and surrounding structures without pain or invasiveness. Patients are involved in the process, allowing them to fully understand what is going on and why the recommended treatment is needed.
The instantaneous deletion and collection of images makes intraoral imaging a valuable tool during consultations. Dental professionals and patients can visually assess previous images, take new ones, and compare changes, thereby minimizing patient anxiety and facilitating a trustworthy patient-physician relationship.
What is HD, and why would it make a difference?
High definition (HD) pictures are viewed on television every day, but intraoral cameras have only recently been able to take advantage of this substantial improvement in picture quality. It took several years to perfect the CIO’s ability to produce HD images, and today we are finally able to achieve true HD image quality.
But what exactly is HD? Although some cameras boast of “high definition”, they only have a resolution of 720p. The “p” in 720p or 1080p means progressive scan, which updates full frame images faster than traditional interlaced images. A true HD camera, such as the MouthWatch Plus +, will provide a 1080p image that will capture 1,152,000 pixels more than a 720p image, resulting in an increase of over 50% in resolution.3 Higher resolution means more pixels per inch (PPI), which means more pixel information and therefore a better, sharper image.
Look at pixels the same way you would a set of building blocks. The more pixels you have, the more you have to work with when creating an image. This increased number of pixels results in sharper, more realistic video and still images. The additional pixels improve the quality of the video and still image.
Another crucial factor is the speed at which intraoral images are transmitted to a computer screen, especially as the camera moves through the mouth. Anything less than 30 frames per second will cause the frames to appear “jerky”; 60 frames per second are required for the smoothest video display.
Precision is essential when talking about pathology
The dental anatomy of patients can be documented in extraordinary detail using high definition cameras that produce crisp, high resolution images. Today, HD IOCs can produce super-macro close-ups up to 80 times, including photographs of individual teeth as well as full arch and patient portraits. These options allow us to make better diagnoses in daily clinical operations, showing patients significantly magnified periodontal problems on examining leaky fillings or examining the margins on a newly constructed lab crown.
Anatomically accurate colors and high definition resolution are essential in dental imaging, as they help capture fine features that can be used to monitor the oral cavity, explain specific patient issues, and even support insurance claims. The color can reveal hidden abnormalities and indicate areas that would otherwise be easily overlooked in the early stages, including examining oral lesions, oral cancer problems, or gum irritation.
Digital dental photography has become a convenient and simple method for documenting the dental pathology and anatomy of patients. Intraoral images allow patients to observe the condition of their teeth and gums from the dentist’s perspective, which helps to understand the rationale for a proposed treatment. Digital images are also convenient to keep for future legal or academic purposes. Therefore, a digital IOC or HD IOC should be essential equipment in every dental practice.
- Galante DL. History and current use of clinical photography in orthodontics. J Calif Dent Assoc. 2009; 37 (3): 173-174.
- Pentapati KC, Siddiq H. Clinical applications of the intraoral camera to increase patient compliance – current perspectives. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent. 2019; 11: 2667-278. doi: 10.2147 / CCIDE.S192847
- What is the resolution? University of Michigan Library. Updated February 11, 2021. Accessed November 12, 2021. https://guides.lib.umich.edu/c.php?g=282942&p=1885350
Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in Through the Loupes newsletter, a publication of dental group Endeavor Business Media. Read more articles and subscribe to Through the Loupes.