When people imagine a dental microscope they usually picture a tool used by specialists during operative dentistry that provides a magnified view of the oral cavity. But as the industry and the technology used by dentists has evolved over time, more and more professionals are recognising that a traditional intraoral camera can be replaced by an advanced visualisation system, such as a dental microscope, in everyday routine check-ups. Many are also finding that a dental microscope can be used as a diagnostic device to detect the onset of periodontal and gum diseases. The addition of a live high-definition camera feed is important as it allows patients to see inside their own mouths, providing them with a greater level of understanding and appreciation of the importance of maintaining excellent oral hygiene.
I first realised the benefits of using a dental microscope to detect decay and periodontal disease when I purchased a Carl Zeiss OPMI Pico microscope from Nuview. I initially invested in the microscope for our in-house specialist endodontists to use. But, when I discovered it was standing idly by for 75% of the working day, I began to wonder how we could utilise it elsewhere. It was then that I decided to introduce it into everyday working practise. The microscope is now used by all members of my team as a preferred visualisation system instead of an intraoral camera. During an examination patients lie back in the chair and they are able to see exactly what I can see via a live camera feed that is shown to them on a 26-inch high-definition monitor. The results I find are often startling for patients who naturally assume there is nothing wrong with their mouth because they can’t see any problems.
As the old adage goes, ‘what you can’t see can’t hurt you’ and in the case of many patients they believe this to be true. Most patients brush their teeth twice a day, some may use a mouthwash or dental floss, but this is the extent of their daily oral healthcare routine. Before I used the microscope and was able to show patients the inside of their mouths, I had a real problem convincing them that their oral health mattered. Now I find that once I have shown a patient the extent of the decay or disease on their lower anteriors and the upper left 6s and 7s for example, they are willing to comply with treatment. Most patients who have decay are aware of it, but a microscope allows us to show them the silent problems. Most patients who have gum disease aren’t aware of it, particularly smokers because they don’t experience the same amount of bleeding from the gums as a non-smoker. A microscope allows a patient to see the onset of periodontal or gum disease for themselves and when they do, they suddenly have a completely different insight into their oral health.
Using a dental microscope in new patient examinations and routine appointments has increased patient compliance tremendously. Patients really benefit from being able to see inside their own mouths and in doing so it opens their eyes to the importance of oral hygiene. After using the microscope for a few months we found the number of patients who needed treatment for periodontal and gum disease had quadrupled. The level of care I am now able to offer my patients has increased greatly. By providing my patients with a direct view into their oral health I am able to foster a greater level of trust between my patients and myself. I am able to discuss with my patients the steps they need to take in preventing periodontal and gum disease from taking hold, by providing them with the information they need on how to improve their oral health at home.
I don’t know many dentists who are working the same way they were 25 years ago. Before the creation of the intraoral camera, dentists were reliant on using their own eye to detect periodontal and gum diseases. Prior to purchasing the microscope I had always used intraoral cameras, but they had their faults such as poor clarity, a poor quality picture and a poor depth of magnification. I find using a dental microscope fitted with a HD camera far easier to use than the intraoral camera. The brilliant design and the levels of magnification a dental microscope offers has improved the way we all work in the practice. My team and I have now realised the potential a dental microscope has and it has taken magnification to a whole new level. In this day and age, where I find that patients need to be convinced they need treatment, a dental microscope is an essential piece of equipment to show them why.
So in conclusion, I feel a dental microscope has great unseen potential. It can be used to enhance all areas of practise and is a fantastic tool to help in achieving greater patient compliance and understanding of their oral health, treatments needed or the treatment process.
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About the author:
Dr David Gilmartin – Qualified in 1979 from Trinity College Dublin. He is a senior dentist at the Hub Dental Practice in Milton Keynes.
First published in Dental Tribune UK