Dental Photography: A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Words

By: Dr. Scott R. Harden

Dental photography is a great topic to discuss because it is a component of modern dental care that patients today should understand and appreciate. Why? Because a picture is worth a thousand words, and a dental picture of your teeth can provide many benefits to you the patient, the dentist, the staff and the dental laboratory.

Dental photographs provide three major benefits to patients:

  1. Confidence
  2. Communication
  3. Enhanced diagnosis

A. Confidence. First of all, not all dentists diagnose and treat your needs in the same way. Therefore, the patient’s understanding of their dental needs is extremely important, and the benefits of dental photographs now come to your rescue. Upon viewing your teeth in dental photograph, the patient immediately becomes involved in the diagnosis and treatment planning process. This allows patients to clearly understand their dental needs, become comfortable with the benefits of treatment, and creates a wonderful new level of confidence for patients.

B. Communication. Communication is dentistry has never been better, thanks to dental photography, which significantly enhances communication between you and your dentist, as well as communication between the dentist and dental labs, referring specialists or simply between the dental staff after you leave the office. A lab can use dental photographs to visualize the extent of your smile during a smile makeover and determine the best way to optimize your smile and esthetic result.

C. Enhanced Diagnosis. Dental photography allows an image of your tooth to be enlarged to the size of an entire computer screen, which in today’s modern world of dentistry is often located directly in front of you as you are resting in the dental chair. Your teeth are now viewed the size of a baseball or even larger. Dentists, as well as patients, can now see details like never before, and the diagnosis of cavities, fractures and other physical aspects of teeth, ultimately providing the patient a much more thorough diagnosis and treatment plan.

Dental photography comes in two categories:

  1. Extra-oral photographs
  2. Intra-oral photographs

Extra-oral photographs are taken with a specialized digital camera that permits us to capture detailed photographs of your teeth. Extra-oral (“outside the mouth”) photographs are great for before and after cosmetic treatment or full-mouth restorative care, and provide good documentation to demonstrate results and allow on-going reference to a patient’s teeth during treatment.

Intra-oral photographs are taken with an intra-oral (“inside the mouth”) camera that is about the size of a large toothbrush. Patients love this feature during their dental visit because they are involved and can see and understand exactly what is being discussed.

Dental photography provides a tremendous improvement over the old days when patients held a hand mirror and tried to see details about their teeth. Images of your teeth are viewed right in front of you on a computer monitor and the patient can actively participate in the diagnosis and treatment of their teeth. People want to be informed today more than ever. Digital photographs, whether intra-oral or extra-oral, help improve your dental diagnosis and treatment, while enhancing trust and understanding from the patient, and therefore reducing stress. One of my favorite comments to patients is: “with digital photography, you can almost diagnose your own teeth, but you just can’t perform the procedures yourself”. Dental photography helps remove many barriers of the past that kept patients from receiving treatment by allowing patients to understand their dental needs, become comfortable with the benefits of treatment and finally receive the dental care they need to achieve their optimal oral health.