Sunday, July 29, 2007

But I already own an intra-oral camera...

You may be asking yourself "Why should I bother learning how to take high quality dental images when I already own an intra-oral "wand"-like camera?" It's a fair question, however, there are some really differentiating features between the two.

I first started using an intra-oral wand camera in 1993. It was awesome. We were able to show patients things like cracks, chips, soft tissue pathology and failing restorations. I was also taking images with an SLR camera, but slide film just had a ton of drawbacks (i.e.-time, cost, not knowing what you had until the image was developed, etc). So, the wand camera dominated use.

When digital SLRs showed up on the scene, it suddenly allowed us to overcome the drawbacks of slide film, however, I guess I am yet to answer the question "Why SLRs as compared to small intra-oral cameras?"

Most dental practice consultants, and lecturers will tell you that the difference between an "insurance" high volume practice and the "boutique" lower volume practice is the comprehensiveness of the treatment plans that are formulated. The boutique practice tends to take more time with patients during the diagnostic phase, and as a result, the dentist tends to more comprehensively diagnose (don't confuse this with wanting to put veneers on everything). This leads to having to see less patients per day with considerably higher dollars/hour being produced, all while creating greater health for patients as compared to the "one tooth at a time" approach adopted by higher volume practices.

Intra-oral wand-like cameras tend to show cracks, chips, etc. on single teeth and although they are valuable, they tend to perpetuate the "one tooth at a time" approach. It is nearly impossible (trust me, I've done this for a while) to match the comprehensive diagnostic information of a digital SLR using mirrors and retractors when comparing it to the image of a single tooth using a standard intra-oral camera. Plus, utilized properly, you can show patients an instant image using an SLR like a wand camera, if you want to, except the image will look far better.

I still use a wand-like intra oral camera from time to time when a patient doesn't have any other comprehensive needs and I want to demonstrate a small crack or chip. I also use it to show failing restorations with the desire to motivate patients to go through the next step, namely, study casts and high quality SLR images, although the right verbal skills will make this transition a very easy one.

Put the wand camera on the shelf for a day and replace those images will full arch, SLR images, and watch your practice begin to change nearly instantaneously. You'll start seeing less patients per day, your dollars per hour will go up and the relationships you create with patients while changing their lives will make the clinical practice of dentistry so much more fulfilling.

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