This piece was inspired by a conversation on Facebook with someone I have never met who was getting excited about having an intra oral camera.
I bought my first intra-oral camera 21 years ago, I bought the second at exactly the same time, with the same order, on the same invoice. Compared with today’s cameras they were bulky, lacking in features, not spectacularly clear, difficult to manoeuvre and expensive. But and it’s a very big BUT, patients loved them. They loved the high “techyness”, the fact that they had never seen their teeth, gums and, in the case of children, their ears before – it was a great ice breaker with children.
Being able to share images with patients had differing responses.
- The sight of a failing huge amalgam filling that would best to be replaced with a crown brought a sage nod of agreement from many including those who didn’t have the first idea what they were seeing.
- Being able to take a new patient on a tour of their own mouth was memorable for the patient and a real practice builder.
- Evidence of calculus on buccal surfaces of upper molars was a great encouragement for some.
- Redness and generalised “kippering” (my term) of the palatal mucosa in smokers was often another drip of evidence to persuade them that the time to stop was nigh.
- Comparing and contrasting labial and lingual surfaces helped to inform many.
- The “yeuch! that can’t be my mouth” response after showing patients the calculus, plaque and generalised inflammation was a great motivator.
Notice something about that list? Mostly it’s about gums, health and motivation. The bedrock of all dentistry. You see the second (or was it really the first?) camera that I bought was for my hygienist. I knew that she needed every tool she could lay her hands on to help, to educate and to inform our patients in how best they could control the diseases in their mouths.
We knew that different people needed different ways of having information presented to them.
Being able to see inside their own mouth was a “wow” factor second to none in dentistry.
So why, more than two decades later, is the idea of a hygienist having an intra-oral camera not the norm?
When I visit practices some of the questions that I ask are:
- “Do you have an intra-oral camera?”
- “Do you use it on the majority of your patients?”
- “Why not?”
- “Does the hygienist/therapist have one?”
- “Why not?”
Generally the answers are non-committal. “I suppose we should”. It would be a good idea” and so on.
If you want your patients to truly experience and understand what is happening in their own mouths then it’s not enough to tell – they must be able to see.
If you want your hygienists and therapists to do their best for patients they need the best tools.