Now we can minimize our patients' office visits, because we see things before there’s any pain or any other indication that the tooth isn’t healthy. We catch decay very early in its course, saving teeth that otherwise would have needed much more extensive treatment.
Not only that, but it makes fillings last longer, because we can more accurately remove “invisible” decay even in the hundredths of millimeters, that might have spread otherwise. The camera allows a dentist to be much more confident that all infected tooth structure has been removed prior to placing a filling or a crown. We can also look critically at our own preparation design to make sure that all areas that need to be smooth are smooth and finished down to the nearly microscopic level. The “margins” or edges of a filling or crown need to be as straight and finely finished as is humanly possible to seal out the omni-present oral bacteria from causing further damage to teeth. The camera allows us to examine these edges both before and after placing a restoration on a tooth.
Tiny fractures within the tooth can be detected also with the camera. I had a patient once who came to me with a history of continuing persistent pain on a tooth that had a filling in it. No one (including me!) could see anything visually wrong with the tooth. The symptoms were erratic and didn’t follow any pattern, but they were persistent. I put the camera on the tooth and bingo! There was a tiny, tiny fracture down the middle of the filling. The filling was replaced and the patient was happy to report that she was out of pain.
The camera can also assist a person in learning about his or her own dental care. If there are questions about what is going on inside one’s own mouth, it’s very difficult to grab a mirror and see anything in the back of the mouth. The camera can be used for discussion and finding out what concerns the patient and the dentist have. It helps demystify dental care and dental treatment if you are curious about what is going on!!