Everything You Need to Know About Intraoral Cameras
The Intraoral Camera (IOC) is a medical device widely used by dental care practitioners worldwide. The camera allows dentists to show patients' clear, real-time images of the inside of their mouth during check-ups. Since their introduction in the 1980s, they have primarily replaced mirrors in the dentist's consulting room.
Although broadly categorized as a medical device, intraoral cameras mostly serve to educate patients and involve them in the diagnostic process.
Since using dental cameras to capture images from the inside oral cavity was first proposed in the 19th century, they have gone from being crude contraptions to ultramodern medical devices. Today, the zoom on some intraoral camera models rivals that of a conventional microscope, allowing the dentist and the patient to observe something as small as a hairline fracture on a tooth.
In usage, the patient or medical practitioner manipulates the camera usually in the form of a wand around the mouth, to observe the mouth cavity during diagnostic or treatment procedures.
A Brief History of Intraoral Cameras
Following the dawn of modern photography in 1839, when Louis J. M. Daguerre presented his invention to the Paris Academy of Science, dental practitioners immediately saw the potential of using a camera to reproduce and record dental images.
And a few months later in New York, Alexander S. Wolcott, a manufacturer of dental instruments, went on to patent the first camera from Daguerre's concept.
But the intraoral camera (IOC) in its present form was launched in late 1987. It was an Analog IOC System developed by the Fuji Optical Systems. The Patterson Dental Supplies then took up the manufacturing process, called the device the DentaCam, and remained market monopolists for an extended period.
Indications for the Use of an Intraoral Camera
The IOC can be used for diagnostic and treatment purposes, depending on the installed features and components. The exact functional application of the instrument may switch a few times during a single visit.
Nearly every modern intraoral camera device has a video recording function. Sometimes it's necessary to provide a video of the whole procedure to patients for insurance purposes or as evidence for court. This has made the video recording feature an increasingly important function on those devices.
Some studies show that patients who use an intraoral camera in their consultation with a dentist go on to demonstrate increased compliance with the dental care guidelines and advice. This has, in turn, highlighted their possible role in disease prevention.
For Diagnostic Purposes
The functionality of an intraoral camera allows patients to reach into all corners of their oral cavity easily. They can then point out the areas with the most pressing issues to the dentist. They may also look at the monitor during the diagnostic process and call attention to any missed out details.
One of the main advantages of those devices is their higher diagnostic sensitivity and specificity compared to a traditional visual examination. For example, a comparison of sensitivity or caries determination between those two methods found that the IOC is about 30% more efficient than visual observation.
Another advantage of the IOC is its effectiveness in reaching inside of the oral cavity, including diastemata, crevices, troughs, and other hard-to-reach parts of the mouth. This, in turn, allows the specialists to have more speed and accuracy with their diagnosis.
In Treatment of the Pathological Process
There are many models of intraoral cameras with additional light filters that are used to harden special dental polymers. This procedure requires an additional source of ultraviolet light, but there are often other various spectrums included.
Those polymers are usually implanted into the surface of the teeth cavity and irradiated with light. After the irradiation process, the substance becomes stable, and the doctor proceeds to the next step of treatment. Indeed, intraoral cameras with flash features are now even more popular than regular ones.
The device also comes with a feature that displays the treatment procedure on the screen. That is particularly important in cases when the pathological process is localized somewhere in a place, which is hard to reach and visually observe. So a doctor simultaneously uses an intraoral camera and other devices.
Possible Complications with the Use of an Intraoral Camera
The main complication that may potentially occur while using an IOC is a mucosal burn. It often happens when the medical specialist carelessly uses the ultraviolet light beam by radiating the same region of the mouth for too long.
As a response to the micro traumatic injury of the cells by the ultraviolet light, various inflammatory processes may result. They may also arise in response to traumatic mechanic injuries. Sometimes the secondary mucosal infection occurs alongside the standard inflammation.
Another significant complication that may occur is acute trauma of the mucous membrane. This can happen when the doctor wrongly estimates the distance to the cheek, tongue, or gum and then accidentally jabs the patient with a cam or some device of significant magnification.
The market for medical equipment is quite extensive, and it is difficult to determine a general benchmark for intraoral cameras specifications. For this reason, we decided to take the medium parameters of the leader of the largest segment of the market.
- Main specifications:
- General magnification - up to x 10 enlargement;
- Clickable zoom (enlargement button) - basic complect;
- Lighting - basic complect;
- Field of view - up to 400 x 600 mm;
- Stainless steel or plastic case - basic complect;
- Additional bulbs - up to 6;
- Luminosity - up to 150 W;
- Portable cable - up to 3 m;
- Video recording button - basic complect;
- Additional features:
- Voice helper - optional;
- Timer - optional;
- Ultraviolet source of light - optional;
- Infrared source of light - optional;
There are many different optional features, including a unique sound signal system, that starts beeping when the doctor is too close to the surface of the mucose membrane.
How They Work
The device's main principle is the careful examination of the patient's oral cavity via the visualization device. It can be any device with a screen, including TVs, laptops, monitors, mobile phones, etc. The patient then observes the entire process and gives the doctor some additional information if they find it necessary.
The specialist very gently inserts the tool into the patient's mouth and begins the observation process. During the procedure, he probes around for different signs of cavities, caries, and teeth fractures, until the entire oral cavity is accurately examined.
The devices are usually powered via a standard USB connector. The first part is inserted into the device, while the second connects to the imaging equipment supplied with the accumulator or attached to the electricity supply.
If required, a doctor may provide a video recording of the whole treatment and diagnostic processes. In some cases, the IOC is also used during various treatment procedures. But like we mentioned above, it would need to include additional features, such as the ultraviolet light source, and other optional parts for various treatment purposes.
After a detailed analysis of the intraoral cameras on the market, we compiled a list of the most popular and the most sought-after brands and models. We would like to point out that the listings are subject to change. But here is the list of the niche leaders in 2020:
- The most popular:
- Doc Royal
Interestingly, several relatively affordable intraoral cameras come with amazingly hi-tech features. For example, some common ones on the market come standard with clear and easy to track video signal, and a superb, durable stainless-steel case.
Although the intraoral camera did not exactly revolutionize the treatment or diagnostic processes, in dentistry, it greatly enhanced the clinical experience for both patients and medical practitioners alike. Some of the reasons for that include:
- It significantly improved patient compliance
- It has improved the accuracy of various diagnostic procedures.
- It has opened the possibility of additional treatment procedures