The use of computer aided diagnostics has greatly enhanced our ability to communicate to patients both their dental concerns and their treatment options. The two such tools that are most frequently used in our office are digital photography and digital radiography (x-rays).
Using digital photographs, we are able to show patients views of their smile as a whole and also have great views of the shape of their arch (crowding, spacing, etc) as well as close-up views of individual teeth. In addition to being a great tool for patient education, it is an excellent way to document changes in patients’ mouths and send information to laboratory technicians as needed for shade matching and general communication regarding our treatment goals. We can also use photos to communicate with other dentists if needed when we are working as a team on complex treatment plans.
Digital radiography is a way to have x-rays instantly transferred to a computer. As with photographs, using the computer, we can increase the size of the x-ray to help aid in patient education and use viewing tools to enhance the x-rays and improve our ability to diagnose any problems or concerns. In addition, having the x-rays on the computer can help communicate with other dentists. Dental x-rays use very small amounts of radiation as compared to other medical or environmental sources and we take precautions to limit exposures to what is necessary for diagnosis. That being said, digital radiography has been generally shown to require even less exposure to radiation than traditional film x-rays, which is a bonus in addition to all of the other benefits that digital x-rays offer.
Dentistry has changed a lot over the last couple of decades. Computer based photos and x-rays are one of the great tools that we have now to improve patient understanding while helping us deliver excellent care.