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In conversation with Dr. Sebastian Horvath
How to improve your dental photography skills?

How to improve your dental photography skills?

  • Introduction to Dr. Sebastian Horvath, the specialist in prosthetics at a group practice in Jestetten.

  • The value of taking dental photographs yourself.

  • You need the right equipment and tools, including an SLR camera.

  • Establishing a standard camera setting allows you to avoid processing the images.

  • Tips and strategies for dentists learning dental photography.

          

In conversation with Dr. Sebastian Horvath

Specialist in prosthetics

  • Dental specialist at a family-run dental practice in Jestetten, Germany.

  • He has over 50 scientific publications to his name.

  • He excels at dental photography and shoots all the photographs himself. 

  • You can contact him through his website: www.drhorvath.de

Bahnhofstraße 24, 79798 Jestetten, Deutschland

How to improve your dental photography skills?

In Conversation with Dr. Sebastian Horvath

 
 

Dental photography plays an immense role in all modern dental practices, from the medical, legal, and marketing points of view. Capturing accurate photographs of cases allows you and your team to make valuable assessments, bolster your marketing efforts, and provide patients with visual evidence of why they need certain treatments. However, capturing accurate and useful dental photographs, especially occlusal photographs, is fairly challenging.

Sebastian Horvath has mastered the art of taking accurate dental photographs with maximum efficiency. Our team at Zircon Medical recently hosted Dr. Horvath on our podcast series to discuss the value of dental photography and how dentists can improve their photography skills.

Introducing Dr. Sebastian Horvath, the specialist in prosthetics at a group practice in Jestetten

Dr. Sebastian Horvath is a specialist in prosthetics, working with his wife and father in the group practice Dr. Horvath in Jestetten, Germany. Besides being an exceptional prosthetic specialist, he also takes special pride in his work with dental photography for their practice, a skill that he’s taught himself through persistence, self-education, and various courses on dental photography.

He says his general philosophy towards work and dentistry was shaped on vacation in Singapore a few years ago. He noted that everyone in Singapore worked with set goals for themselves and their community — the country even has concrete goals through to 2050. Dr. Horvath was impressed by such vision and long-term thinking, especially compared to their European counterparts. 

He is currently working towards establishing his dental practices’ complete independence to do whatever they feel like doing.

The value of taking dental photographs yourself

Dr. Horvath takes all the dental photographs in their clinic himself. He was first trained to take dental photographs when he was studying prosthodontics, and that’s when he learned to deal with mirrors and other necessary components of photography. He prefers taking photographs of all his cases because the results are beautiful and realistic. Photographs help him plan different cases efficiently and communicate better with the dental technicians.

When asked about the possibility of hiring agencies to take the photographs, Dr. Horvath pointed out a few clear advantages of self-efficacy. He conceded that an agency would probably do a better job of taking pictures of the dental practice. However, hiring a professional photographer for occlusal photographs or patient photographs would pose logistical challenges.

First, it wouldn’t always be implementable because you’d always have to schedule a photography session in advance. You wouldn’t be able to take photographs of a particular case or patient on the spur of the moment. Second, a photographer wouldn’t necessarily have the skills and sensitivity to photograph such a small and dark region to ensure they capture the issues being highlighted.

Dr. Horvath firmly believes it’s far better and more efficient for dentists to learn photography for themselves.

You need the right equipment and tools, including an SLR camera

According to Dr. Horvath, you must at least have the following equipment and tools for dental photography:

  • SLR Camera: A good SLR camera to take realistic and clear photographs of the teeth.

  • Lens: A macro lens with a long focal length to shoot straight without distortions.

  • Flash: Choosing the correct flash is crucial because the lighting is the major hurdle for occlusal photographs. Since you’re taking pictures inside a mouth, everything is dark, and it’s hard to get light into the right corners. Dr. Horvath recommends a ring flash because it brightens every corner of the mouth at once.

  • Settings: The camera settings are a variable if you take pictures from different angles. But if you only take pictures from the front, you only need to set a default setting for the camera.

Establishing a standard camera setting allows you to avoid processing the images

Dr. Horvath advises against processing the images because they should look exactly how you see them. At most, you can process the images to increase or decrease the brightness, but that should be as far as you go. You should use the ideal camera settings to avoid having to process the images. 

While finding the right setting may be challenging, you don’t have to constantly change the settings if you’re always in the same position in your clinic. At most, you’ll have to change the focal length to increase or decrease the sharpness of the image, and that’s as simple as rotating the focal wheel appropriately. 

Another reason to avoid processing is simple — efficiency. Sometimes, you need to show the patient the photographs to explain certain issues, so you don’t have the time to process the images. In that case, you need to have the settings in place to take the photographs efficiently and show the pictures without any delays. 

Tips and strategies for dentists learning dental photography

  • You have to be really sure and confident that you want to learn and practice dental photography. Otherwise, you just won’t do it.

  • Buy the right tools and equipment, including the right camera and flash. 

  • The settings aren’t complicated once you understand what they mean and how they work. You can conquer the settings by reading a book or taking a course.

  • Take as many pictures as possible, trying to improve the results every time. Continue taking more pictures until the photographs look exactly the way they do to your eyes. 

  • Avoid processing the images.

Learning to take dental photographs may seem challenging, but Dr. it’s also incredibly rewarding. You can find Dr. Horvath at his group practice at Bahnhofstraße 24, Jestetten. You can also listen to Dr. Horvath in our Zircon Medical podcast or continue reading for a detailed article on how to improve your dental photography skills.


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How to improve your dental photography skills?

An independent article by the Zircon Medical Team 

Photography is one of the most important parts of the dental treatment planning process. Whether you’re taking before-and-after pictures or occlusal photographs to show a patient what you’re trying to explain, dental photographs have immense value. However, while a good photograph can convince a patient to proceed with your treatment, a bad photograph can also have the opposite effect.

If the photograph doesn’t show what you want your patient to see, i.e., if there’s a gap between your sight and the vision captured on the photograph, the patient might become distrustful. Poorly-captured photographs can also affect your ability to plan the treatments conveniently. And poorly-shot before-and-after pictures can make patients suspicious of your skills.

Suffice it to say, if you’re venturing into dental photography, you must improve your skills and take reliable images. This article provides handy tips and strategies for dentists to learn dental photography or improve their existing skills.

The tools and equipment necessary for dental photography

Cameras

You can choose between two types of cameras — point-and-shoot cameras or DSLRs. Point-and-shoot cameras include lenses and flashes, and they’re easier to manage, suitable for quick snaps of patients for communication with your partners in the dental practice. DSLRs are more complex and require additional components, but they provide better images, speed, increased depth of field, and incredible customizability. 

Lenses

You must choose lenses capable of macro (or close) focusing, i.e., capturing images that are close to the actual size of the subject. True macro lenses offer a magnification ratio of 1:1, indicating that the lens will capture the image at the original object size. Many DSLR lenses call themselves “macro lenses,” but you must focus on the 1:1 ratio rather than the claim.

Flashes

Most intraoral and extraoral images rely on flash illumination because the mouth doesn’t have a natural source of light of its own. DSLR cameras allow hot shoe mounted flash, i.e., the flash is mounted on top of the camera. A ring flash is the best type of flash for dental photography because it provides circular light to illuminate the entire mouth without shadows.

Cheek Retractors

Cheek retractors are essential for all dental photography sessions because they retract the lips, buccal mucosa, and other unnecessary soft tissues from view. They also allow more light to enter the mouth, providing greater visibility of the oral cavity. You should ideally choose double-ended plastic retractors because they’re the most comfortable for the patient, least visible, and adaptable to various mouth sizes. However, metallic retractors are more durable.

Intraoral Mirrors

Intraoral mirrors are essential for dental photographs because they allow you to capture occlusal and buccal images, regions that are otherwise obscured to the camera lens. A set of intraoral mirrors includes various sizes of both buccal and occlusal mirrors. You should ideally get intraoral mirrors with handles to prevent your fingers from appearing in the images, an unfortunate consequence of most traditional mirrors.

Heating Pad

A heating pad is one of the best means of preventing the intraoral mirrors from fogging up, one of the biggest barriers to clear dental photography. You can place the intraoral mirrors in a folded heating pad to prevent them from fogging up. This allows you to comfortably take pictures without the risk of the mirror fogging up. 

Tips on taking different types of dental photographs

Full Face

  • The camera should be directly in front of the patient.

  • The patient should be against a solid-color background.

  • The photographer and patient should be close to the same height to ensure the camera is at the patient’s eye level.

  • The patient’s eyes can be used as the horizontal mid-point for the photograph.

  • The patient should smile naturally, showing their teeth prominently.

  • The patient should be slightly in front of the background to avoid shadowing.

Full Smile

  • Point-and-shoot cameras should be on macro-mode, or DSLR cameras should use 1:2 lens magnification.

  • The camera should be directly in front of the patient — not angle up or down. 

  • Ask the patient to smile naturally. If they have trouble smiling naturally (some forget how to smile when they’re in front of a camera), ask them to bite down on the posterior teeth while smiling.

  • The focal point should be the central or lateral incisors.

  • The incisal plane can be used as the horizontal mid-point.

  • The anatomic midline should be the vertical mid-point.

  • Don’t adjust or tilt the camera if the incisal plane is slightly slanted.

Retracted Anterior (Frontal) View

  • The patient should be seated in the dental chair. 

  • The lips must be retracted outwards using cheek retractors. 

  • The image shouldn’t capture the retractors.

  • Clear plastic retractors are far more discrete than metallic ones.

  • Use the largest possible retractor to prevent the upper and lower lips from showing. 

  • The occlusal plane should be the horizontal mid-point.

  • The anatomic midline should be the vertical mid-point.

  • Air-dry the teeth to minimize the appearance of saliva.

  • Two sets of images can be taken (with maximum intercuspation and slightly apart) to highlight the incisal edges. 

Retracted Right and Left Buccal Views

  • The patient should be seated in the dental chair.

  • Direct view with cheek retractors is easier than a reflected view with a buccal mirror.

  • For the direct view, place the retractor against the side being photographed. Buccal “v-shaped” retractors are ideal, but standards “u-shaped” retractors also work.

  • The occlusal plane should be the horizontal mid-point.

  • The canine should be the vertical mid-point. 

  • The photograph should prominently display the canine-molar relationship.

  • Two sets of images can be taken (with maximum intercuspation and slightly apart) to highlight the incisal edges.

Maxillary Occlusal View

  • The maxillary and mandibular occlusal shots necessitate using retractors and an occlusal mirror.

  • The patient should recline at a 45° and raise their chin.

  • Cheek retractors should be used to pull the patients’ lips upward and outward.

  • The buccal soft tissue and lips should be kept away from the teeth to ensure optimal visualization of the posterior and anterior teeth.

  • The occlusal mirror should be inserted until the edge goes beyond the most posterior tooth.

  • The mirror should be rotated downward, making the back touch the lower incisors.

  • Heating pads can be used to deal with the fogging, or you can ask the patient to momentarily hold their breath.

  • The photograph should include all the maxillary teeth with a complete view of the incisal edges and embrasures. 

  • The anatomic midline should be the vertical mid-point.

  • The premolars should be the focal point.

Mandibular Occlusal View 

  • The patient should recline at a 45° and raise their chin.

  • Cheek retractors should be used to pull the patients’ lips upward and outward.

  • The buccal soft tissue and lips should be kept away from the teeth.

  • The occlusal mirror should be inserted until the end stabilizes on the soft tissue beyond the posterior teeth. 

  • The mirror should be rotated upward, its back touching the maxillary incisors.

  • The image should be taken at a 45° with the mirror. 

  •  If the tongue is visible, you can ask the patient to lower the tongue or move it to the posterior. If that doesn’t work, you can push it out of the way with the mirror.

  • The anatomic midline should be the vertical mid-point.

  • The photograph should include all the mandibular teeth with a complete view of the anterior incisal edges and embrasures.

  • The premolars should be the focal point.

Final tip — communication is key.

Sometimes, a dentist may get so caught up in the process that they forget about the patient’s emotional state completely. Having someone poke around your mouth with mirrors, metallic retractors, and cameras can be unnerving, so it’s worth easing their discomfort. You should communicate every step of the photography process and explain the purpose of each device used, such as the mirrors and retractors. That’s the best way to gain their enthusiastic cooperation, which is essential for effective photography.



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