Have you ever finished a beautiful posterior composite with great primary anatomy, beautiful color match and pristine margins? Of course you have. Have you ever wished you could show your colleagues, team (at a team meeting), or maybe even your patient - or all of your patients - in your restorative gallery book or quarterly newsletter? Have you ever taken the photo of the finished restoration and then wished that you had taken the pre-op photo for a great before and after presentation?

If only the photos were part of every comprehensive exam, taken with the same intention and priority as the rest of the exam. There are so many good reasons to incorporate a system of clinical photography into your practice. One of the greatest benefits might just be the addition of a critical tool to help our patients make healthy decisions. Some photos might be more helpful for your patients and some might be more helpful for you.

How do we decide which photos to take? Which are the most critical and why? The following are a few things to keep in mind when taking photos:

1. Profile smiling for us: Are the teeth in the right position anterior/posterior? Are they proclaimed or retroclined?

For the patient: How do my teeth look from the side?

profile dental photo

2. Lip at rest for us: Is there a popper amount of teeth showing (age appropriate)?

For the patient: Am I supposed to show teeth when I'm not smiling?

lips at rest dental photo

3. Full smile for us: Are the gingival margins symmetrical? If not, why not? Is there a reverse smile line? How might that affect the current function or predictability of any work I do?

For the patient: I’ve never looked at my smile like this.

To the patient: Have you noticed any changes in the last five or 10 years?

full smile dental photograph

4. Retracted teeth apart for us: Wear of incisal edges and level of occlusal plane. 

To the Patient: What do you notice about the edges of these teeth?

retracted teeth apart dental photo

5. Retracted teeth together for us: Verification of maximum intercuspation to compare to casts. 

To the patient: What do you notice about how these teeth fit together?

retracted teeth together dental photo

6. Maxillary and mandibular arch for us: To review conditions after the patient leaves to help develop treatment plans. 

For the patient: A tour of their mouth and each tooth to help connect signs with symptoms. 

maxillary dental photo
mandibular dental photo

Sometimes a gentle nudge for you and your team to reinforce the benefits can provide the needed support to integrate this “mini-system” into your practice.  

(Click this link to read more dentistry articles by Dr. Kevin Kwiecien.)

Kevin Kwiecien, D.M.D., M.S., Spear Faculty and Contributing Author


Commenter's Profile Image Gerald Benjamin
April 4th, 2014
Clinical photography has been the currency of fine dentistry for more than 20 years. Prior to that, only dental lecturers bothered to photograph their work. For the last two decades, if a dentist can't show you their work,they are not doing anything exceptional. I photograph every tooth that I restore for medical/legal documentation and to show patients the retained/recurrent caries under existing restorations....Trust by verify.
Commenter's Profile Image Dale Smith
April 16th, 2014
Great photos and commentary. I love the breakdown of.. For us and For the patient. A picture is worth a thousand words. I take photos for every exam and have for years but now plan to work more photography into the daily routine both in hygiene and procedures that I do. Thank you for your comments regarding legal documentation. Also, I believe that giving patients prints of their photos can be very useful in helping them to become aware of their existing condition.