Digital imaging has become a regular procedure for any emergency dental service and recent advances in digital technology has made it easy to photograph patients, using a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera.
Photography is now a necessary part of dental examinations for the purposes of documentation and for sending information to laboratory technicians and consultant practitioners. Digital imaging is also used by many dental practices for patient education and for marketing campaigns.
The requirements for extraoral or intraoral digital imaging depend on the patient attending an emergency dental service. The AACD (American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry) recommends a minimum of twelve views to be documented for each patient. Invisalign requires only eight images. Additional digital imaging may sometimes be necessary, depending on the type of treatment and the patient’s clinical condition.
A dental practitioner working for an emergency dental service will generally record eight basic images of a patient on the initial visit. These are a full smile, full face smiling, profile of full face, front view retracted, right buccal and left buccal, both retracted, mandibular occlusal and maxillary occlusal.
The easiest way to capture these eight basic images is with a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR camera. Both types are suitable for emergency dental service use, because picture resolution is clearer in digital imaging with megapixels.
Some extra equipment is required for digital imaging. A plain background is needed, which will not distract anything from the important part of the picture. Dental equipment also has to be used during a photographic session, including occlusal mirrors, buccal mirrors and cheek retractors. Some idea of patient positioning and basic camera techniques will help with consistency in digital imaging, and for time efficiency in the dental chair.
Knowledge of the main components that make up digital imaging equipment is useful for a clearer understanding of photographic techniques. A point-and-shoot cameral is comprised of three components: the camera body, the lens and the flash. These all come as one item in point-and-shoot cameras. Using a DSLR camera, however, requires the use of a separate flash and an additional lens.
The best type of camera for an emergency dental service to choose depends on the main reason for using digital imaging. When images are required by a consulting dental practitioner or a laboratory, a point-and-shoot camera is all that is required. Pictures taken with a DSLR camera are more suitable for marketing and for use in case presentations, because the images are of better quality, with an increased depth of field.
The main advantage with DSLR is that is provides more flexibility and the digital imaging can be more creative. However, there is one disadvantage in choosing a DSLR camera for dental photography, and that is the cost. Digital cameras can be expensive, and they become obsolete very quickly, each time a new improved model is introduced. For example, a new 36 mega-pixel Nikon D800 DSLR camera costs around $3,000, and back in 1999, the cost of the original 2.7 mega-pixel Nikon D1 was $5,000.
The advantages of using a point-and-shoot camera include the fact that it costs less, weighs less and is ready to use, with no need to set up a lens and a flash unit. The LCD screen on a point-and-shoot camera also makes it easy to frame an image.
The main disadvantage with a point-and-shoot camera is that image quality is never as good as it is with a DSLR camera. There is also less choice in the type of lens and flash used with a point-and-shoot.
An interchangeable lens camera, which is a hybrid of DSLR and a point-and-shoot camera, is known as DSLM (digital single lens mirrorless). The LCD display removes the need for a mirror-based viewfinder. The Nikon N1, the Panasonic Lumix G Micro and the Sony Alpha NEX are just a few examples of DSLM cameras with interchangeable lenses. With some of the advantages of both DSLR and point-and-shoot, a DSLM camera is suitable for use in an emergency dental service.