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Digital photography in dentistry in 2009 – IMO a necessity!

Posted by Dr. Charles Payet on January 7, 2009

Digital photography has exploded into dentistry in the last 6-7 years with the advent of more affordable digital SLR cameras, and even more importantly with the increase in the number of dentists teaching how to use it.  For years, many dentists never chose to use photography in their practice for the simple reason that it was a serious hassle — had to buy film, often didn’t need to use up an entire roll on 1 patient, had to wait for the film to be developed to know if the pictures turned out well, the cost of developing, and the incredible hassle of storing all those pictures, whether prints or slides.  I still remember seeing the room where my good friend, mentor, and colleague, Dr. Ross Nash, kept his massive collection of slides the first time I attended the Nash Institute here in Charlotte, NC.  At the time, which was probably about 2000, I recall him mentioning that he had about 750,000 slides stored in that room. Three-quarters of a million slides!!!! Sure, that was over a career that had already spanned 20 years, but still……..that was mind-boggling to me at the time!  He had already started switching to digital at the time with a Fuji S2, though, and in the intervening 10 years, I occasionally wonder how many more digital pictures he’s taken.

In my office, I made the switch to digital from a Yashica Dental Eye III; there are still a few books of slides languishing in some cabinets in my office, but they just collect dust.  At first, I used an Olympus C2500, I think — maybe 2-3 megapixels?  Not the greatest, but I still have all those images.  In 2004, however, I finally switched to the Canon Digital Rebel, one of the first “pro-sumer” DSLRs.  About 2006, I purchased a Canon 30D for my personal use, and at the beginning of 2008, when my venerable Rebel finally died, I switched to the Canon XTi body.  I expect the XTi bodies will last another couple years (hopefully), but my hope is to upgrade to the new Canon 5D Mark II at some point later in 2009.  I’ve been adding Canon lenses since then, slowly upgrading to better quality glass.

In my own office catalog of images, there are now about 38,000 images, the large majority of which were taken since 2005, when I started photographing almost all of my dentistry, not just my cosmetic work.   I’m currently averaging about 12-14,000 images per year.  I’ve actually slowed down a bit since incorporating a Zeiss PICO surgical microscope in August 2008; previously I would often take pictures to immediately load to the computer and blow up so I could see greater detail than my Designs for Vision 4.5x EF loupes and Sheervision headlight could provide.  Now that I can see at even greater detail than that through the scope, I don’t need as many.  However, once I upgrade to a Xenon light source and a HD video camera for documentation, that number will probably skyrocket!  It’s only money, right?  LOL

In the 21st century, I am still constantly amazed by a couple things in dentistry:

1) There are still dentists who haven’t computerized their offices,

2) The majority of dentists still don’t use magnification (loupes) or only use 2.5-3.5x magnification, and of those, most don’t use a headlight, and

3) The vast majority of dentists still have no clue how powerful digital photography can be in gaining patient trust, in protecting themselves against frivolous lawsuits through documentation, in speeding up insurance approvals through easy-to-understand (even for insurance clerks) pictures of teeth with big holes in them, and more.

I’m not really sure which of these boggles my mind most.  Honestly and truly, I believe that SOME type of photographic documentation is an absolute no-brainer today.  The camera equipment is affordable, there is plenty of training available (and yes, I provide that — see my website CDPayet Photography), software makes it easy to track and annotate, it’s easy-to-use, and the benefits are simply undeniable.

If you’re in dentistry and you want to learn how to incorporate this awesome technology into your practice, give me a call or email, and we’ll talk about what you need, how to integrate it, how to get your staff onboard, and how to make it work for you!

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7 Responses to “Digital photography in dentistry in 2009 – IMO a necessity!”

  1. Alan Mead said

    “2) The majority of dentists still don’t use magnification (loupes) or only use 2.5-3.5x magnification, and of those, most don’t use a headlight…”

    Do you think? Do you know of any surveys or anything or is this a gut feeling? I hope that you’re wrong, but I don’t really know.

    It seems that most of my local contemporaries use some kind of magnification. One of my friends who is an OMFS doesn’t use them and I give him a hard time almost constantly!

    Keep up the blog, Chip! I like it!

  2. cdpayetphotography said

    Alan, I think there was a poll on Dentaltown about it a while ago, and while my memory could well be faulty here, I seem to recall that – if you took those who wore either no mag or less than 2.5x – then you’d have a majority of dentists. It’s ridiculous how many I used to see at the Nash Institute when I was mentoring there who had no loupes. A lot of them were amazed by my SheerVision headlight, like “Wow – what’s that light you’ve got there?!”

    Hopefully the % is increasing, though, and it’s great seeing how many docs on DT are picking up the operating microscope for even higher mag — it’s just unbelievable the difference, even from 4.5x and a headlight.

    Thanks for the compliments, too – much appreciated!

  3. Alan Mead said

    I’m jealous of your jump to the microscope. I just haven’t been able to pull the trigger. I’ve wanted to for years but I worry about the learning curve.

    I will say that getting rid of my overhead dental lights and having multiple headlights (mine and my assistants) was a good move for me. My hygienists now use magnification and headlights…something I’ve been wanting for quite some time.

  4. cdpayetphotography said

    Alan — JUST DO IT!!!!! Of course there is a learning curve, but it’s just sick how well you can see – headlights just don’t begin to compare. Of course, you’ll be mad because you didn’t do it earlier, but you’ll have to be mad at yourself for that, not at me. 🙂

  5. Digital photography sounds nice, but i think not all the dentist can afford to use that in their clinic. thank you for blogging this out. i enjoyed reading it.

    -faith-

    • cdpayetphotography said

      Faith — given how much the cost of DSLRs have dropped, it’s easily possible to put together a complete dental photography package for less than $1500 with Canon; I’m not as familiar with Nikon, but I believe the same can be done. That’s a lot less expensive than most intraoral cameras these days, and the quality is far superior.

      True – not all dentists can do it; but truly — cost is not a barrier.

  6. […] photographs of the work that we do.  You can see my Photography Blog post on the subject of Patient Communication with Digital Photography for more info on how/why we take pictures of our work, but now I’m finally able to turn a lot […]

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