Wednesday, March 14, 2012

It's not about the dental camera...

In his famous book "It's Not About The Bike", Lance Armstrong discussed many of the things that helped him become a champion. Unfortunately, many dentists place an undue amount of emphasis on the camera and dental equipment, when they should be worried about the quality of the image. In my humble opinion, they're way off base. Of course, having a proper camera, flash and lens makes a difference, but what is far more important is the composition of the image.

Composition is the makeup of the content of the image. In other words, how accurate of a representation of the real thing are our images. Almost every dentist needs to work on composition, but with great composition, almost any camera will work just fine.

Sure, a Nikon or a Canon may have certain inherent advantages for certain images, but in the end, taking the time getting trained on composition will pay rewards that will last a lifetime. A dark image can be lightened and a light image can be darkened, but a poorly composed image cannot be fixed. You can crop out unwanted information, but in order to get an accurate clinical representation, one should learn to master the art of retraction and mirror use.

To make a point, here is an image taken by me using a standard iPhone. No fancy lenses or lighting equipment.
Of course, it's out of focus, but that's because the iPhone does not have a macro lens-a lens to take an up close picture. However, take a look at the angle of the maxillary arch to the camera and the way the whole arch is seen evenly. This is a function of the mirrors and retractors and good patient positioning, not the camera you bought.

Below is an example of a poorly composed image. The lighting is great and the camera doesn't matter, however, look at the quality of the image. It doesn't properly represent the Angle's classification and we can see the "real" arch. There's simply a lot of extra information and the information that's supposed to be there isn't properly represented.

It's hard to see between the molars and if you notice, the emphasis of the image is on the cuspid, not the bicuspids or molars.

This image is really meant to show the posterior teeth, but the central theme here is not the posterior teeth.

If we could get rid of the "real" arch and just show the mirrored arch, set at 90 degrees to the mirror, we'd be way better off

Below is a much better lateral arch image that has just the information that we want to capture and again, the camera we used is unimportant. It's all about mirrors and retractors and this quality is possible for almost every single patient.

This is the kind of image that allows a patient to see and take ownership of their dental issues and it's the kind of image that allows case acceptance to go through the ceiling.

It just takes some time and instruction to get it right, and like Lance riding a bike, once you learn, you never forget.

Forget about the camera, get trained to capture amazing images and never stop trying to get the best images that you can.

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