Do you agree with the well-known saying that a picture is worth a thousand words? Dentists are applying this wise truth in their practices with hand-held cameras attached to flexible cabling that can capture images in hard-to-see places inside a patient’s mouth.
Intraoral cameras, as they are called, are tiny digital or x-ray cameras that have been around since they first rolled out in 1989. Now, many dental offices consider them essential to patient health.
The medical instrument looks like a wand or an oversized pen. The high-resolution camera mounted on its tip takes completely painless pictures of tooth and gum areas. These instant images show both the therapy team and the patient exactly what is going on within the dark cavern of the patient’s oral cavity – the mouth.
Think of an intraoral camera (IOC) as a high-tech dental hand mirror. Most models come equipped with LED lighting, a head that rotates from 0 to 90 degrees, and powerful magnifying capabilities. Some cameras have the ability to zoom in up to 100x (100 times the actual size).
The addition of IOCs to dental offices across the nation has risen in recent years as caregivers compete for good medical outcomes and high patient satisfaction.
Photographs can help a patient who is reluctant about the need for treatment to see the truth of their oral condition. This really helps the patient make an informed decision in going forward with treatment.
The dental patient can watch as the camera operator produces digital images that require no processing time: they are available immediately. The images can be saved in an image format to the patient’s file.
The views captured by one of these tiny cameras lets patients see the real picture (literally) of what’s going on with their teeth and gums – in real-time.
Photos and videos are excellent diagnostic and teaching aids. The dental hygienist or doctor can display the images on a screen in the office during a patient visit to help explain current condition and treatment options. My dental office mounted a flatscreen monitor over the reclining treatment chair for my easy viewing…niiiice.
My dental hygienist told me that the intraoral camera (IOC) has been super effective in patient education. It’s a great way to show “before and after” still or video images that document the results from a cleaning or after a cracked or broken tooth is repaired.
A scientific study followed 100 patients to test how effective instruction about how oral hygiene improves oral health, with and without the help of an IOC. Participants in each of the two 50-person groups had similar age, frequency of caries, plaque accumulation and gingival bleeding, and both genders were distributed equally.
At the end of a four-week trial, plaque levels and gingival bleeding were down in both groups. But 88 percent of the test group who received oral hygiene education accompanied by images from an IOC reported that “the extra information provided by the camera was helpful and desirable.”
Here are six ways an IOC can benefit oral health treatment:
- Detect oral health problems early
- Improve the patient-doctor relationship
- Improve the accuracy of the recommended treatment or therapy plan
- Document for future case reference
- Enhance the doctor’s credibility
- Better for handling insurance claims
IOCs that take x-ray images are especially helpful when documenting a dental insurance claim. These testimonial image files can be printed, emailed, or shared on a small thumb (flash) drive.
Because digital images are so useful and speed up the claims review process, some insurers would now rather receive them by email than as a paper printout. Using less paper is a benefit to our environment, too.
Dentists who have successfully integrated IOCs into their patient care facility say that the tool pays for itself as long as the hardware and software work well together and are user-friendly, and the staff is onboard and trained on how to use the camera images for education and diagnosis.