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Enhancing Patient Education with the Use of Intraoral Cameras

Kamesha McFadden & Sonya Bautista

Lamar Institute of Technology

Enhancing Patient Education with the use of Intraoral Cameras

According to Prime Infographics (2011), “About 65% of people are mainly visual learners, in that they easily pick up information with their eyes.” There are three different types of learning styles: auditory, visual and kinesthetics. More than half of the population retains information by visually seeing things, which allows people to remember specific images. With that being said, intraoral cameras can be a great educational tool to educate patients. “Intraoral cameras transfer magnified digital images from the oral cavity onto a screen that is viewable by patient.” (Attanasi, Kim, 2014, pg. 16) Both the patient and the clinician would benefit from intraoral cameras, in which it may allow better communication and understanding of the affects in the oral cavity.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Mike Williams, an ordinary person, invented the first intraoral camera after making a visit to the dentist. (NPR, 2013) Williams visited a dentist office to repair a cracked tooth. Like many patients, Williams was curious and asked to see his tooth. The dentist offered Williams a mirror. Cameras were not available at this time to offer Williams a better image of his cracked tooth. It was in that moment that led Williams to the invention of the first intraoral camera. Fuji Optical Systems then registered the first trademark of intraoral cameras in 1987 (Lensiora, 2015). It did not take long before the first intraoral camera in 1989 set the standards for intraoral cameras with a dental endoscope, light source, and remote head micro camera included (FavoritePlus, 2013).

There are two types of intraoral cameras: Fibroptic and USB cameras. Fibroptic cameras were the first camera systems available, which consisted of a separate boxed light source, and a fiber optic cable from the box to the handpiece (Lavine, L., 2012). These cameras produced high-quality images, but were expensive and the heavy equipment made it difficult to move from operatory to operatory. Because of the problems with Fibroptic cameras in the dental practice, manufactures invented USB cameras, which are easier to use while still producing high-quality images. Unlike Fibroptic cameras, USB intraoral cameras have the light source built into it, and the images can be uploaded directly to the computer to be viewed by the patients. There are several different types of USB intraoral cameras, some wired and some wireless. Different Intraoral cameras include: IRIS USB Intraoral Dental Camera manufactured by Digital Doc, Kodak 1500 camera manufactured by KODAK Dental Systems of Carestream Health, and “Discovery” manufactured by Video Dental (Rethman, Jill, 2010, pg.70, 72-73). All three cameras have their own unique features and are portable and convenient for any practice. Although USB cameras are used more often, Gendex AcuCam and Digi-Doc are the two fibroptic cameras still used today (Lavine, L., 2012).

The use for intraoral cameras are to capture abnormalities, aid in periodontal assessment, explain dental charting, track patient’s progression/regression, and aid in patient education. Dental hygienists, General Dentists, Orthodontist, Periodontists, Prosthodontist, and Pediatric Dentists can use cameras for these reasons. Dental Hygienist and General Dentists use cameras to show and help educate patients on the variety of atypical and pathological findings in the oral cavity. Periodontist can use it to aid in periodontal assessment showing where there is recession and inflamed gingival tissue. Prosthodontists can use it to point out the findings on the dental charting where there are suspicious areas that may need advanced treatment like crowns, bridges, dentures, implants and cosmetics. Orthodontists and Pediatric Dentists can use intraoral cameras as a tool to track the patient’s progression of their oral health condition, or to show regression of poor oral hygiene and areas of concern since the last appointment. These are all ways that the intraoral camera can help aid in patient education and diagnosing. Showing patients specific problem areas in their oral cavity and comparing the image to healthy conditions can help make a difference in the patient’s perspective of their own oral health. Visual aids can have an impact on the patient and encourage them to strive for maximal oral health.

Out of the surrounding dental offices called, half of the practices stated they use intraoral cameras. We spoke with several assistants, hygienists, and a dentist and collectively, they all enjoy using intraoral cameras and find them very helpful. Intraoral cameras are only used when felt necessary. We were told that they use the cameras to help with patient education, diagnosis, restorations, providing images for patient files, and sending images to insurance companies to pay for treatments. We asked if there was training necessary for the use of intraoral cameras, and were told that dentists and hygienist are self-taught, but do one-on-one training with new employees. Not all of the offices that use the intraoral cameras were trained; however, there are continuing education courses available for training purposes.

Like with everything, intraoral cameras have advantages and disadvantages. A great advantage of intraoral cameras is its ability to aid in communication barriers. Not being able to understand the patient when spoken to or vise-versa is always a challenge. This is where the images from intraoral cameras come in handy because a clinician does not need to speak the patient’s language in order to demonstrate to the patient any findings within the oral cavity. This may grab the patient’s attention by giving them a better view of what they usually cannot see. Intraoral cameras are painless and require absolutely no radiation which allows the patient to trust the clinician even more. Intraoral cameras can also be great in teaching patient education to the patient. It serves as a good diagnostic tool giving a clear image of the inside of the oral cavity. Patients can see and may be able to recognize findings on the images that were not noticed before because of its inconvenient location and/or lack of pain. Patients may be more compliant to fulfill dental treatment once oral conditions can be properly seen. The easy-to-use intraoral camera provides the clinician with an image that can be viewed on a computer screen immediately after being taken or within just a few seconds making this very convenient. Images can be saved directly to the patient’s files, and as with any electronic, it is paperless. The saved images allow easy access to printing, duplications, and sending to other dental offices. Intraoral cameras are now the size of a hand piece, lightweight, and very economical compared to what they used to be. Cost can be a disadvantage. Although cost has decreased, they are still considered to be an expensive piece of equipment. A few disadvantages can occur while taking intraoral images if the tissue and tongue get in the way of taking the picture, but that can be avoided with proper placement and adjustments. The intraoral camera’s technological dependence is also a disadvantage. Images cannot be saved if the computer is not working because the camera’s USB relies on the usage of a computer. As with any files stored on a computer, a back-up of the files stored is recommended in case something occurs to the original computer.

A picture is worth a thousand words and what one can see may alter one’s perception drastically. Studies show that people retain information more when they see it. These images can have a total impact on the patient’s perception of their overall health. Therefore, intraoral cameras can be a great tool to have in the office; however, it is not meant to replace other diagnostic tools. Intraoral cameras are a visual aid that should be used to help the patient see what is really happening. Seeing is believing which can make a big difference in one’s life.


Attanasi, K., (2014, July). Enhance Patient Communication. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, Volume 12 (Number 7), pages 16 – 18.

FavoritePlus, (2013). History of the Intraoral Dental Camera. FavoritePlus: Innovative Healthcare Products. Retrieved from dental-camera/al-camera/

Lavine, Lorne, (2012). Intraoral Cameras. The Digital Dentist. Retrieved from

Lavine, Lorne, (2015). Comparing Intraoral Camera Systems. Dental Economics, Volume 95 (Issue 4).

Lensiora, (2014). The History of Intraoral Cameras. Evolution of Intraoral Camweras. Retrieved from:

NPR Staff, (2013). A Doctor’s Kindness Gives Homeless Inventor A Second Chance. NPR\Around the Nation. Retrieved from: doctors-kindness-gives-homeless-inventor-a-second-chance

Obrochta, J.C., (2011). Efficient & Effective Use of the Intraoral Camera. Dental Care. Retrieved from

Parker, (2011). 65% of All People Are Visual Learners. Prime Infographics. Retrieved from

Rethman, J., (2010, September). Intraoral Wand Cameras: Create Partnerships with your patients. Dimensions of Dental Hygiene, Volume 8 (Number 9) 2010, pages70, 72-73).

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