Photography: An Enduring Cornerstone for Excellence and Personal Growth in Dentistry
Jeffrey Lineberry, DDS, AAACD
Over the years technology has impacted almost everything in dentistry, and photography is no exception. Film and slides have given way to digital sensors and mass media storage, allowing clinicians to see and share images instantly and create and store them at a fraction of the cost of developing film. Innovations in photography have been instrumental in advancing dentistry, especially in the areas of cosmetics, smile design, and complex treatment planning.
In dentistry, communication is crucial, especially when patients have complex needs and issues and when their case requires the collaboration of a multitude of professionals to obtain an excellent outcome. Today dentists can quickly and easily take a plethora of digital photographs and incorporate them into software, enabling them to treatment plan and design a digitally enhanced smile that they can share almost instantly with their patient, dental laboratory technician, and other specialists whether they are next door or hours away. Using images to communicate is invaluable in creating exceptional results, and digital photography has made this easier to do now more than ever.
Photography not only facilitates enhanced communication, but it allows dental professionals to hone and refine their skills and assess their outcomes on a regular basis. By taking "before" and "after" photos, dentists can gain insight to the work they completed and make necessary adjustments in cases going forward to help improve overall outcomes. Reviewing clinical results through photographs can be very humbling, to say the least, especially when it comes to striving for excellence and achieving outcomes that mimic nature. Yet, this opportunity to review one's work allows for continual growth and improvement, both personally and professionally.
My own journey behind the camera began in 2003 when I was exposed to some beautiful dentistry during a meeting that year. Wanting to learn how to execute dentistry of that quality, I approached the facilitator of the class and asked him where to start. He told me to obtain a camera and get involved with the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD). So, I went home, bought a digital point-and-shoot camera, and joined the AACD.
At first, many of the photographs I took were poorly framed or exposed. Nevertheless, I gradually learned what worked and what didn't, and, along the way, discovered how important and useful photography was in my practice. I started noticing things I missed during patient visits and what I could have done better.
Several years later I attended my first AACD scientific session and was exposed to a group of like-minded individuals who were passionate about learning, sharing, and creating excellence in cosmetic dentistry. Photography played a major role in the AACD's approach to education, communication, and personal growth. The more photography I saw, the more I became aware of my skills and where I needed to grow and improve.
Soon after, I started attending the annual meetings and determined to elevate my dentistry and photography skills even further. Thus, I then took the first step to becoming accredited in the AACD by taking the written examination.
AACD Accreditation is a rigorous process that involves passing a written test, presenting clinical cases to be graded by other dental professionals, and passing an oral examination. The process entails submitting unaltered case photographs review. The clinician's dentistry, which is presented through his or her photography, is then graded "pass" or "fail." Feedback is shared freely by examiners and fellow colleagues throughout the process, helping to raise personal and professional growth to another level. Having attained AACD Accreditation in 2017, I can attest that this achievement has taken my career to a new high. Going through the accreditation process brought out some of my best clinical photography and dentistry.
As technology continues to evolve, photography will always remain an enduring cornerstone for excellence and personal growth in dentistry. For dentists who aren't comfortable behind a camera, resources are available to improve their photography skills and, ultimately, their dentistry. The AACD offers courses in dental photography basics and how to improve photography skills at its annual meeting. Additionally, AACD members have access to lectures in accreditation photography online in the AACD's virtual campus, and the AACD produces a photography guide for accreditation.
Personal and professional growth and development begins with taking the first shot. So, get a camera and start shooting.
About the Author
Jeffrey Lineberry, DDS, AAACD
Private Practice, Mooresville, North Carolina;
Visiting Faculty and Online Moderator
Spear Education, Scottsdale, Arizona