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  07.01.05 Issue #173

Intra-Oral Camera….Priceless

Jean Gallienne RDH BS
Hygiene Consultant McKenzie Management

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WOW! Your office has purchased intra-oral cameras. It is so exciting when we first get new “toys”. Unfortunately, sometimes it is just like when we were kids. The newness wears off and the toy ends up in the bottom of our toy box. In the dental office that toy box is in the back of the operatory or hanging from the ceiling collecting dust.

This technology is priceless in the hands of the right person, and anybody can be that right person with a little training on how to utilize it to your advantage. Particularly when it comes to time management, diagnosis, and treatment plan acceptance. Remember a picture is worth a thousand words.

Everybody is using loupes these days because of increased visibility, which is great while you are working on the patient. However, I have to say that when it comes to the initial examination of the mouth there is nothing like an intra-oral camera. Not only is this great technology for the operator but for the patient also. I have yet to see a patient be able to put a pair of loupes on and look into their own mouth. Do not misinterpret this message. Loupes are great for the operator to use in order to increase their vision and expertise. However, at this point in the initial exam it is about the patient being able to see.

What I found to work best once I have reviewed the health history and I have laid the patient back is to glance over all of the occlusal surfaces with my camera looking for “suspicious areas”. Then I check over the facial and lingual aspects of the tooth, taking any pertinent pictures along the way. These pictures may consist of any treatment pending, visual calculus, inflamed tissue, leaking margins, old restorations, or any large old fillings. This takes the same amount of time as it would with your mirror, except you now have pictures to share with your patient of any “suspicious areas” that you may have spotted.

Now, you can either go over what you see in the mouth with the patient, or you can explain to the patient that you took pictures of suspicious areas. But until you can evaluate them closer with instruments, loupes, and x-rays (if the patient needs them), you are not sure if they will need treatment in these areas. Let them know that you will go over what you see when you are done with the prophylaxis. The hygienist should leave these pictures up on the screen until the doctor has diagnosed the treatment needed.

Which brings us to another benefit. Leaving the pictures on the screen with extensive notes in the record will help the doctor with his/her exam. The hygienist should have at least four pictures available for the doctor to view at every exam. This will help with time management because the doctor will be in and out of your room quicker. And the patient is getting a more complete exam. However, the information the hygienist provides to the dentist needs to be complete.

When you go to get the doctor for the exam, go over what you saw with the doctor while walking down the hallway. When the doctor does come in for the exam, explain to the doctor and patient what you think may be going on, showing the pictures you have taken to both the doctor and patient. It would be best to have the patient in an up right position so they can see the screen. Make sure to include the patient in on the conversation. Allowing the patient to ask any questions they may have. Actually, you may want to ask the doctor questions for the patient. The patient does not always know what they should be asking, and they depend on the person they know best in the practice to help them out.

Once the treatment has been diagnosed, and you are going over the pictures along with what treatment is needed, be sure to sit the patient up, remove the bib, and make eye contact . Show each picture that shows the area that needs treatment. Explain why each area needs the treatment that has been diagnosed by the doctor. The pictures you have of teeth that just have “suspicious areas”, but do not need treatment should be explained to the patient too.

The patient is more likely to accept treatment needed if they have been thoroughly educated about their needs. With the use of the pictures from the intra-oral camera you will have successfully educated your patient both verbally and nonverbally.

Now, there is no reason for that “toy” to ever sit and collect dust. Not only does the intra-oral camera help with time management , but it also helps with diagnosis, and patient education. The intra-oral camera should end up being your favorite “toy” at the top of the toy box.

Jean conducts 2 day Hygiene Performance Enrichment Programs for The Center for Dental Career Development and McKenzie Management in La Jolla/San Diego, CA. Contact her at or 1-877-777-6151 Ext. 23

Interested in having Jean speak to your dental group? Email us at or call 1-877-777-6151

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