First of all, photographs can be a very valuable part of your patient record, which can help with medical legal issues. It can help with diagnosis, treatment planning, tooth implants and monitoring. Photographs can be useful for patient education and liaison with other members of the dental team. As a young dentist, it’s great to get stuck in with using a camera as you can start building up a portfolio of all your cases.
The type of camera which is most suitable for this purpose is an SLR; Single Lens Reflex camera. This will give you the best image quality, close focusing ability, best illumination, and manual controls. There are lots of different brands available, but it’s really personal preference. A lot of people will choose common brands such as Cannon or Nikon. As likely it is that someone around you will be able to help you if you need help. Best thing to do is to visit a camera shop and test out the range for yourself.
So, what should be on your shopping list? To start off with, you need a body. Each brand has several SLR bodies available. If dentistry’s your only use, the body doesn’t really matter as long you go for the most affordable. The crucial component is the macro lens. You have a number of fixed focal lens options; 50mm, 60mm, 70mm or 100mm macro lens. Personally, I prefer the 100 as it’s more convenient for close-up shots. Make sure your lens is compatible with the chosen body. The mouth is a very dark place and a flash is imperative. There are two types of flash, a Twin or a Ring Flash, which is what we have here. The ring flash is recommended as it gives you a crisp shadowless image. In fact, the ring flash was invented in 1952 specifically for dental photography. You then need your memory card and spare batteries. At this point you’ve probably spend around a grand or a grand and a half and the bank account may be looking a little empty. However, one additional item that you do need is a good camera bag to look after everything.
Other accessories which may be available to you already are retractors, mirrors, and contrastors. Alternatively, you may want to invest in these too. Retractors can be metal or plastic and can be of various curvatures. Mirrors can be various sizes and shapes, but generally they are either Buccal or Occlusal mirrors. A contrastor is not essential, but if you are doing a lot of aesthetic cases, then it can draw attention to the tooth shape, show translucent incisor wedges, and also remove distractions of the mouth.
So, now we’ve got the kit. Let’s look at the settings. Manual focus is more accurate for macro work. The aperture, also known as the F-number, is the hole in the center of the lens that allows light in and can be varied in size by the operator. A numerically smaller value is the large aperture and it influences the depth of field. As the F-number increases, the depth of field becomes wider. The suggested F-numbers for the various shots are displayed. You should also ISO of 100 or 200, a shutter speed of one over one-sixty, and the white balance should be either automatic or flash.
Okay, so now you’re ready to snap. Take some full-face shots first. Remove any glasses or distracting jewelry. Pick a plain background. Be level with the face and ask the patient to look straight ahead. You may also want to take some natural full-face views. Thereafter, I usually take a natural and a full smile view. Following this are the intraoral shots. This can include: anterior retracted, right and left buccal segments, upper and lower occlusals, and any views of particular areas you may be interested in or that you’re treating.
Okay, I hope that’s enough to get you started. Photography is a skill in itself, but the more you practice, the better you’ll get. Good luck.
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