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Dr. Sheri B. Doniger is a leading dental clinician, author, educator, and consultant who practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Ill. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those of us who have entered lightly into the dental technological digital era, we may only have one or two components in our offices. In our office, aside from practice management software, caries and oral cancer detectors, we have Air Techniques’ indispensable Polaris intraoral camera. Why indispensable?
For those of us who have entered lightly into the dental technological digital era, we may only have one or two components in our offices. In our office, aside from practice management software, caries and oral cancer detectors, we have Air Techniques’ indispensable Polaris intraoral camera. Why indispensable? This device gives you multiple opportunities to offer teachable moments during oral care treatment.
What they can do
Intraoral cameras are routinely used during initial or periodic oral examinations. They display the current conditions and offer a starting point for discussion on relevant treatment. They also are instructive in documenting the necessity of procedures for dental benefit companies who can’t see the leaking margin or a crack in the tooth via a radiograph, either digital or film.
But not only do they document, they also can be used to educate. We tend to discuss a procedure with our patients as it’s progressing, to give them both an insight into care as well as explain the steps in a procedure. This gives our patients a clearer knowledge of their treatment and makes them a more informed dental consumer.
Reaching the patients
Taking images with the Polaris intraoral camera during treatment is powerful, especially when you show the image to your patients. Dental offices experience many different patient personalities during the course of the day. Some patients are not interested in what we’re doing. They just want you to do the work and be done. But there are other patients who do want to be educated. Some of those patients are fearful, and talking about what we do demystifies the procedure as well as keeps them calmer. Others are really interested in what we are doing in their mouths and are intrigued by “what the tooth looks like.” For these patients, seeing is believing.
How they can help
These photographs, when recorded, remain in the patient’s digital record or may be given to the patient. The majority of dental fear comes from not knowing what is going on during treatment. If the patient has an interest, showing Polaris digital photographs during the treatment phase may allay their fears.
The patient can now “see” most of the procedure
Documenting treatment is not only good for “show and tell” for the patients, but it is a great record for our own recall. Once a tooth is restored, we don’t always remember every nuance of the intaglio of the preparation. Although digital cameras are great assets, some practitioners don’t want to build a photographic gallery of pre- and post-treatment casework. By taking outstanding pictures while you are working on the tooth, intraoral cameras such as the Polaris can provide a different, but not less marginalized, digital record.
There are so many ways intraoral cameras can help you with cases, including:
For a patient who presents with a large amount of calculus on the lower lingual teeth, take a pre-debridement photograph. Discuss what the calculus is and how it was formed. Then, when half is removed, show the patient the difference in the tissue underneath where the calculus was resting.
Finally, upon complete removal, discuss the importance of keeping all those interproximal spaces open for flossing. These are all teachable moments in our quest to inform patients about the health of their mouths.
Removing old large restorations, especially amalgams, may leave behind caverns, as well as evidence of tissue damage caused by overhanging or faulty margins. Using the Polaris, you can easily document the areas of gingival concern, as well as the depth of the restoration removed. As much as we try to explain to patients the consequences of improperly restored teeth, demonstrating the tissue irritation allows for very powerful communication.
Placing implants can be a lengthy procedure. Patients rarely get a glimpse of the work in progress. Taking records with the Polaris is quick and efficient. The patient is aware of each stage of implant placement up to the insertion of the final abutment.
The benefits for your practice
As with any digital photograph, images from an intraoral camera are great conversation starters or launching points for additional treatment. Once the patient sees the restoration in progress or in place, you can easily direct the discussion to the patient’s future needs. When patients see a beautifully finished restoration next to one that is lacking, they will make the obvious comparison and ask “what should we do about the next tooth?”
Using the Polaris will naturally increase your productivity. For the moments it takes to record the image, you may be rewarded with more informed patients who will tell their friends about the cool things they saw while in your treatment area. Consider the Polaris the next time you want to expand your treatment acceptance.
Sheri B. Doniger, DDS, is a leading dental clinician, author, educator and consultant who currently practices dentistry in Lincolnwood, Ill. Dr. Doniger has authored numerous articles on topics ranging from periodontal disease to effective communications, and has presented many lectures with an ongoing focus on women in the dental industry. She also is an active member of numerous professional societies, including the American Dental Association, Illinois State Dental Society, Chicago Dental Society, and the American Association of Women Dentists, as well as being a Fellow in the American College of Dentists and the International College of Dentists. Dr. Doniger was the editor of Woman Dentist Dental Journal and currently writes a regular column for DrBicuspid.com, titled “Dental Diaries.” A health and wellness advocate, Dr. Doniger is always looking for ways to make life more productive. Most recently, she was named by Dental Products Report as one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry.