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Everything you need to know about using non-interruptive camera systems to improve: treatment acceptance, patient satisfaction, efficient workflow, and communication with colleagues and laboratories.

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Dental Photography 101: Part 1 - Equipment

Aug 23, 2022 1:00:00 PM / by Kirsty Happonen

Visual aids and multimedia are guaranteed ways to help your patients understand, be more satisfied and less anxious about their dental treatment.

The barrier to begin dental photography is low – most equipment is already in the clinic, from cheek retractors to mirrors and lighting. For those who want to take journal quality images, a few specialty items can be added.

The only tool you may be missing is a proper dental camera that let’s you take photos without stopping treatment.

In this article, we will look at the types of equipment and why you may choose certain types:


It’s time to start shooting photos! The qualities of a good dental camera are:
  •  Hands-free, foot pedal operation for hygiene and uninterrupted workflow
  •  Always-on and ready to capture images, videos and video bookmarks
  •  Automatic file transfer and saving to a gallery for instant image use
  •  Full HD and 4K image quality
  •  Optical magnification with lenses (overuse of digital zoom can distort images)
  •  Light weight and compact to reduce neck strain when loupe mounted.

It's recommended to use a proper medical camera rather than a cell phone, since phones have privacy and hygiene concerns.  However, Intra-oral cameras require stopping treatment to use, and are not suited for use during examinations or procedures. 

Digital SLR cameras are excellent quality, but require stopping treatment to set-up, transfer files and prepare images for use.

If you are looking for a clinical dental camera, have a look at the proCam XS, the most versatile 4K camera on the market. proCam-1-WebRes-2


Mirror Material

  • Stainless steel has the advantages of being thinner, unbreakable, and autoclavable. The negatives are that they may scratch and can be less reflective than glass, leading to slightly darker images than glass.

  • Glass mirrors come in chromium, rhodium, and titanium surfaces and are often mirrored on both sides. All surfaces have similar hardness and brightness. The double sided finish means you can flip the mirror if it gets scratched on one side.

  • Plastic mirrors are disposable and not intended to remain clear and scratch-free. The plastic is very light weight and shatter-proof.

Mirror Types and Shapes

Mirrors are typically named for their use and many come in small, medium or large sizes:MIrrors

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  1. Mouth mirror – basic round mirror in several sizes and types, with a Size 4 (22mm) being good for indirect illumination in the posterior and lingual regions of the maxillary anterior regions, and for taking photos of the back of molars.
  2. Elongated mouth mirror –two-sided mirror extends your view by 40%.
  3. Flat Buccal or Lateral Mirror – available in glass or steel, single or double sided.
  4. Flat Lingual Mirror - available in glass or steel, single or double sided.
  5. Flat Occlusal Mirrors – small, medium or large sizes, in glass or steel, single or double sided.
  6. Steel mirrors come in the same shapes and in angled versions that help keep your hand out of the photo and can provide two mirror sizes or shapes in one.


Cheek Retractors

Chances are that your standard lip and cheek retractors are fine for photography:

Cheek Retractors3

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  1. Metal retractors are often best for anterior views where the lips must be pulled both up or down and forward.
  2. Plastic lip wideners are easy and comfortable for patients to hold for lateral and buccal images.
  3. Self-retaining or C-Type retractors are handsfree for 2-handed dentistry and advanced models may have integrated suction and lighting.


One way to make your dental photography look instantly professional is use of a black contraster to black-out the tissues around the teeth. Contrasters are also a way to show incisal translucency.

Contraster Example

Contrasters come in various shapes, sizes and colours, although matte black is the most common. They often has one side marked with a ruler and one side plain.

Contrasters1. Two sided Lingual-Occlusal contraster  
2. Two sided Buccal-Occlusal contraster
3. Occlusal contraster
4. Anterior contraster





Dental Lights

Dental photos should be taken in as natural, even light as possible. This requires a modern dental light or headlamp with a colour temperature of 5000-6000K and a brightness of 50,000lux. Natural lighting and colours are critical for communicating oral health to patients and prosthetic colour match with laboratories.

Clinics may have a combination of:

  • Ceiling lights – for diffused, bright light in the room
  • Dental operatory light – for focusing on the treatment area
  • Loupe/headband mounted – for additional brightness and focus

Eye strain can be avoided by finding a dental light with a working distance that keeps it above your head and not shining into your eyes. The working distance of a dental lamp must be in the range of 80-120cm.

Your camera software should automatically correct for situations like sunlight and glare, and it must allow for advanced adjustments to brightness, contrast, whiteness and colour temperatures.

Photography Tip: Do you use an angled mirror and find that your photo exposure is inconsistent or dark? It could be that the mirror’s bend is causing a reflection that is tricking the camera sensor. Try changing the angle between the light, mirror and camera.


Topics: Knowledge Base, Dental Technology, digital dentistry, Dental Photography

Kirsty Happonen

Written by Kirsty Happonen

Kirsty is the quality and product compliance manager at Novocam Medical Innovations. She has worked in the dental equipment industry for over 10 years and enjoys a good research project.

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