Visual Communication

Images and Patient Communication

Car - Images and Patient Communication

When I was in New York for my dental residency, I took my car to an autoshop. The technician examined my car and then came out to meet me. But instead of explaining the problem to me in the waiting area, he invited me back into the shop where my car was up on a lift. Then he took me under the car and showed me what was wrong. Wow! That made the difference for me! I know very little about cars but being able to see the problem helped me know that it needed to be fixed. Since that experience, I have been trying to do the same thing for my patients. It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, and oftentimes, when I show a patient an x-ray or picture of their tooth, it helps them understand the problem, as well as to understand the options for fixing it.

Here are some visual tools we use to help us communicate with our patients:

1. Digital X-rays.

Three things that I love about digital x-rays: 1) There is no lag time to develop them — they can be viewed immediately. 2) Patients can see them on a screen (we use I-pads for this purpose). 3) The radiation needed to expose them is about 20% that of traditional film.

Digital Bitewing Xray for seeing in between the teeth.
Adult pano xray for seeing all the teeth at the same time.
Digital X-rays

2. The Dexcam 3 Intraoral Camera.

An intraoral camera is a small camera that goes inside the mouth to take photos. This camera works great for taking large, clear pictures of single teeth.

An old amalgam filling that needs replacement.
A tooth with decay near the gums.
An intraoral photo showing calculus (tartar) and stain on the backside of the lower front teeth.
This is a broken tooth in need of a large filling or a crown.

3. Full Mouth Intraoral Photos

We just started taking these in the past year for new patient exams. I have found that using this type of photo is very helpful for patient education. It’s easier for the patient to see the “big picture” and to understand some of the treatment options better. If you are an existing patient and would like this done for you, just let us know when you schedule your next appointment and we can schedule extra time for this. This is a complementary service.

Photo of front teeth
Photo of teeth in the top arch.
Photo of teeth in the bottom arch.