Intraoral Cameras: A Vital Necessity
As a full-time practicing dentist, my intraoral camera is as important to me as my probe and explorer when treating all patients, especially during each initial exam.
When I started practicing dentistry in 2001, my camera could barely fit into the oral cavity to take images of posterior molars! Between the size, weight, and poor image resolution, I had to rely on other tools during treatment planning, such as my poor drawing skills and verbal prowess. Both options used up a lot of time, and neither one produced results that visualized the true reality of a patient?s dentition. I learned early on that using images simplifies my job as an educator.
The Power of Technology
Today, we live in a world filled with technology and visual stimulation. If we do not capture a patient?s attention within the first 3 minutes, either with a few words or an impactful image, then we may lose the patient for the rest of the appointment.
I am a big fan of using technology in my practice, but I am far from being a tech geek. I have one basic criteria for technology: it has to be easy. I have to be able to turn on the computer and be on my way with a few clicks. Time is money, and I have a limited amount of time with my patients to capture their attention and establish a ?connection,? so I have to use the best tools in my toolbox to clearly convey my message.
Intraoral cameras are always used in my practice during treatment planning. I take images of almost every preexisting restoration and set up a comparison between ?old? restorations needing replacement and newer, well-sealed restorations. With side-by-side images, patients easily can identify the ?needed work? and feel empowered in the decision-making process. The images of the restorations that do not need treatment can be stored and used as a good baseline to compare the breakdown of the restoration in the future.
As dentists, we spend a significant amount of chairtime educating our patients about their needs. When our patients leave the office, they feel a sense of urgency regarding treatment. We need to continue this patient motivation through images. Print images of the teeth taken during the appointment and send them home with the patient. There is no greater motivation to schedule an appointment than a disgusting image of a tooth taken home to show a spouse.
The Bottom Line
Whenever we want to purchase a new piece of equipment, we have to consider its financial and operational impact on the practice. We should ask several questions, such as: Is this new ?toy? necessary, or will it become old and stale and sit on our shelves? How much training will the team require to assimilate this new piece of equipment into our daily routine? Will my new intraoral camera integrate into our existing software? How will this impact my scheduling? On a basic level, is it worth my time and money?
As leaders of our practices, we have to assess the value and functionality of any new addition so we can educate and guide our staff toward our vision. In a nutshell, we need verification that a new intraoral camera will improve the practice and our bottom line.
To maintain a profitable practice, we always should take our bottom line into consideration, especially when it involves staff productivity. Often, we place onlays or crowns on teeth that have smaller restorations than the insurance company?s ?criteria,? but because of extensive stress fractures, they require cuspal coverage for optimal results. Intraoral images along with a well-documented claim can ensure proper insurance reimbursements. If we continuously submit claims that are rejected, we are not only delaying payment, but also wasting staff time.
The Right Camera for You
If we decide to invest in an intraoral camera, we are emotionally committed to mainstreaming its use in our daily routine and financially committed to spending a good chunk of money for this luxury. There are various types of intraoral cameras available. Some intraoral cameras come with docking stations, others are plug-and-plays, and the newest options are cordless.
In one of my offices, I have docking stations in every operatory and transfer my camera from room to room. In another office, I use a plug-and-play camera that plugs into the USB port of the operatory?s computer.
I find that there are advantages and disadvantages to both types. I like the plug-and-play option because it is light and easy to maneuver. It has significant cost-savings compared to purchasing individual docking stations for every operatory, and it gives me the images that I need. The biggest disadvantage is that I still prefer the clarity of the images of my older, heavier camera that uses docking stations. Although the camera is more bulky, the image resolution is clear, and since I like to print my pictures, image clarity is important.
There are many different manufacturers and brand names of intraoral cameras, so choosing one is a personal decision that must be made based on 2 basic factors: budget and ease-of-use.
Visual Communication Saves Time
Just like our modern lives, dental practices rely on the use of technology. Intraoral cameras are instrumental in building patients? trust through visual communication. The use of intraoral cameras in my office have allowed me to cut down on new patient time from 30 minutes to 15 minutes without compromising case acceptance. I see about 2 to 4 new patients per day. If I can save 15 minutes per new patient, I can fill my open schedule with revenue-producing treatments. In my practice, each 15 minutes is worth $150. If we cut two 15 minutes per day, at the end of the week we will be able to increase revenue by $1500, which translates to an increase of $6000/month straight to the bottom line.
The question is not whether an intraoral camera is necessary, but rather which intraoral camera is right for the dentist, the office, and the staff.