Many years ago in a lecture by Dr. Frank Spear I learned about the six photos he takes on every hygiene patient and it transformed my practice. Over the years I have come to depend on the power of being able to see what I am describing as a way to engage my patients. Photography is the most powerful communication tool to allow people to see their teeth as we see them. It creates awareness, and all action begins with awareness. I no longer take the six I started with, but have it down to the magic four photos.
The magic four photos are a full smile, lips retracted teeth apart and upper and lower occlusal. These four photos are taken as part of our hygiene visits. Originally I took the images, and worked with discussing them with patients. The next step was to have my hygiene team be able to take over this powerful aspect of patient communication. I started by buying a point and shoot camera and teaching my hygienist to take these four photos. At the beginning of a hygiene visit we invite the patient to have these photos.
“I’d like to take four photos of your teeth today, they will become part of your records, and periodically we will take them again. This way we will be able to monitor changes visually, instead of relying on our memories. Is that something you’d be interested in?”
All four photos are then printed on one standard piece of paper and a copy given to the patient, “We have these as part of your records, but I thought you might like a copy.”
Some people will immediately look at the photos and we hand them a sharpie marker and let them know if they have any questions or are curious to circle things and make notes so we can talk about it at the end of the appointment. Other people secret the photos away, they will look at them privately. You will see those photos again, often after you have left the room for something or at their next appointment because they have a question about them.
My practice exploded with treatment to do, because suddenly my patients had a different awareness of their present condition.