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Photography: Different Flash Options

One of the most valuable tools that I have in my office that I absolutely could not work with if I were to have a problem with that piece of instrument that day is my camera. If you would have told me the day I got out of dental school that I would need a camera to do dentistry, I would wonder why?

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Photography has come a long way

When I first opened my practice, I thought I was very lucky because I was shooting in 35 millimeter slide film, and I had a film store right below my office. I was able to take that film downstairs and drop it off and get it back in just a few days. We have obviously come a long way from there, and it gives us the ability to be able to evaluate or look diagnostically at images as soon as the images are registered. What we have to understand is is that although the brains and body of the camera, now has the resolution and the acuity to give us all the detail that we need. It is about the light that we put on our subject that can create an inference on how that information is recorded.

Ring flash and twin-point flash

Ring flashes are a great place to start. They cast the entire subject in an even bath of light, across all textures and depths. However, that is not how we would view the subject in nature; it is not always an even bath of light. There are specific angles in which light comes in and is reflected.

Twin point flashes orient the light source on either side of the lens. The advantage of a twin flash is that it brings light from specific angulation that allows us to pick up some additional diagnostic information.

Certain flashes help capture the textures and contours of our restorations.

That diagnostic information may be the labial contours, the texture, the luster of the surfaces of the tooth that are even more important today than what they ever used to be because we are often scanning cases. The models that we fabricate from scanned cases may not replicate all of that texture. During the source of communication in a remote location for indirect restorations, the laboratory technician may rely upon those images in order to try to balance out your restoration with the rest of the smile.

Flashes are an artificial light source that will create artifacts

We know what artifacts are in radiographs because they are portions of the image that really don't exist that way in nature.The same thing happens in flash photography. The reflection from the subject to the lens that is then received by the sensor really is a devoid area of information that needs to be either removed for diagnostic purposes or otherwise softened in order to make a subject more beautiful. We would remove those spectral reflections with a process called cross polarization or we may soften or enhance our subject by using something like softboxes. Although softboxes will make your dentistry look beautiful, they also remove a lot of diagnostic information are not necessarily part of our protocol in communication to the laboratory. Things like cross polarization and utilization of twin flashes are something that are very valuable in mastering in dental photography.

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Picture of Dr. Scott Finlay

Scott Finlay, D.D.S., FAGD, FAACD is the Resident Expert in Dental Esthetics and Senior Faculty member at the Dawson Academy. Dr. Finlay is one of the world’s most recognized dentists in the area of esthetic dentistry, winning several awards from the AACD. He is also a full-time practicing dentist at his practice in Annapolis, MD.