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Practical How To

What are the questions you should ask when selecting an intra-oral camera?


On an experimental basis, we have asked a limited number of companies to provide us with practical “How To” answers to clinical questions. We were prompted to conduct this experiment when dental team members told us that they visit company websites and consult company representatives for practical clinical information. We look forward to receiving your feedback on this experiment. 

By Denika Smallwood

The benefits of incorporating an intra-oral camera are well known; in fact, the top 10 reasons why you should be using one in your practice was explained in Carestream Dental’s recent blog post. However, knowing why you should have a camera is not enough—you also need to know how to select the right one. To help with this, I have created a list of questions that will help you choose the appropriate intra-oral camera for your practice. 

Question #1: Will the camera integrate with my existing practice management and imaging software, or will I need to use the manufacturer’s software?

If a camera does not integrate with your current software, it can be difficult to get everything to work together. Additional questions to consider may include:

  • Can the camera be easily integrated into my current system via a TWAIN driver to provide an optimized workflow?
  • If I use the camera manufacturer’s imaging software, will the software also work with my other imaging systems (such as panoramic unit, intra-oral sensors, etc.) or is it strictly for the camera?
  • Will the camera manufacturer’s imaging software integrate with my existing practice management software?


Cyst Clinical Image

Cyst Clinical Image

Question #2: What is the image quality and is it sufficient for my imaging needs?

Using an intra-oral camera can help with patient communication and diagnoses, but that is not possible if the image quality is not there. To learn if the camera is right for you, inquire about the image resolution as well as other features that add to the overall image quality that the camera can produce. If you plan to display the images on larger monitors, consider a camera with a higher resolution to avoid image pixilation. Features like auto white balance and auto illumination also play a key role in the quality of images.


Occlusal Molar Clinical Issue

Occlusal Molar Clinical Issue

Question #3: What is the focus range?

A fixed focus camera is fine for truly intra-oral images, but if you want to take full arch or smile shots, you should consider a camera with a wide-focus range. A fixed-focus camera can also be faster to use than waiting for the auto focus or a manual focus camera. In pediatric dentistry, this can be a real advantage when you need to get in and out of the mouth as quickly as possible. Fixed-focus cameras also work well in Endodontics, where the majority of images taken will be at very close range.

Question #4: Is the camera auto or manual focus?

Manual-focus cameras require adjustments before each image is captured, while those with an auto focus adjust automatically—essentially doing all of the work for you. In general, manual-focus cameras are cheaper, but they could require more work in the long run.


CS 1500 Wireless

CS 1500 Wireless

Question #5: Does a wired or wireless camera work better for my practice?

This is a personal preference—while some practitioners don’t mind cables, others prefer minimal clutter in their offices and operatories.

Question #6: Does the camera require a dedicated connection box?

If the camera requires a docking station, it can reduce portability if you don’t plan to buy a dock for each treatment room—which then adds to the total cost of the camera and can lead to extra counter clutter.

Question #7: How do I plan to acquire and save the images from the camera?

If you don’t have PCs in the operatories and plan to hook the camera up to a monitor, you need to ensure the camera supports that type of connectivity. If you plan on saving your images to a file system on a PC somewhere later, find out if the camera requires an SD card or if the images can be saved directly to the camera.

Question #8: How is the camera installed and supported?

Malfunctioning equipment isn’t just annoying—it can also impact your productivity and efficiency. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to ask the following questions when reviewing your camera options:

  • Do I have to hire someone to come to my office, or does the camera manufacturer have a support group that can install it remotely?
  • Who should I call if I have questions in the future?
  • Does the camera’s manufacturer have a support group dedicated to troubleshooting issues?

Question #9: What is the manufacturer’s warranty?

Cameras are an investment, and it’s important to protect yours. A good warranty could keep you from losing money should your camera become damaged or malfunction after your purchase.

There are a number of intraoral camera choices in the market today. By taking the time to ask yourself a few questions about your practice, workflow, and the camera’s intended use, you can easily narrow down the choices and find the perfect intraoral camera. 

About Denika Smallwood

Denika Smallwood is the product line manager for Carestream Dental’s intraoral imaging equipment, including RVG sensors, intraoral cameras, phosphor plate systems and X-ray generators. With more than eight years of experience, Smallwood works with a cross-functional team to develop and bring new products to market.

Learn more about Carestream Dental’s selection of intraoral cameras.



  1. TorontoDentist October 11, 2013

    I can appreciate the above detailed comments about choosing an intra oral camera. However one of the items missing is cost.

    It is unclear as to how in every other industry camera and photo technology has become cheaper except in dental technology in Canada.

    Name brand camera’s sold in the Canadian marketplace are ridiculously expensive for the technology they are providing. Usually they are in the thousands of dollars.

    I would suggest that dentists looking to by an intra oral camera look at alternatives online through ebay. Often the cheaper camera does the same job for a fraction of the price.

    I should know, my old “name brand” camera broke after 7 years of use. I was shocked to find replacement was $3000. Online purchase of 3 cameras for $100 including shipping. Excellent quality and fully integrated into my imaging software.

    I am a case study of one however we should be very critical of high prices for camera technology which has become cheaper over time except for in the dental marketplace.

    1. Denika Smallwood October 29, 2013

      Intraoral cameras first hit the market in the 1980s and since then the technology has evolved tremendously allowing for lower cost and more compact designs. An intraoral camera of 20 years ago would have been quite large and cost in the neighborhood of $35,000. By the early 90s, smaller and more portable designs were emerging and a typical model would sell for around $12,000.

      Today’s intraoral cameras have been reduced to small hand piece designs that are light weight, portable, and much more affordable than in the past. Exciting new innovations in the intraoral camera space include additional clinical applications such as caries detection, guided caries excavation, and even oral cancer screening.

      Technology and innovation continues to evolve as brand name companies strive to improve image enhancements, diagnostic capabilities, and also drive down cost. Depending on what you are looking for, a high quality intraoral camera today typically ranges anywhere from $2,000-$6,000.

      While it’s true that lower-priced cameras are available on the market, which can satisfy the need to simply show a tooth image, the combination of cheap plastics, low quality imagers like CMOS, and low-cost LEDs can only provide average images. Additionally, post service and support is typically not an option. These new lesser known cameras are inexpensive to purchase, but may only last a few months. Most high-quality cameras are built to last and withstand the test of clinical environments. The old adage, “You get what you pay for,” is still very true particularly in this regard. Things like durability, longevity, and peace of mind are gained from reliable manufacturers.

      Well-known camera manufacturers know that superior image quality is only achieved by the perfect combination of advanced optical systems coupled with high resolution CCD’s, and as long as there is open competition among the top manufacturers, intraoral camera technology will continue to evolve and cost will continue to go down over time. However, it’s important to keep in mind that medical and military grade equipment and components will never follow consumer grade pricing/cost trends.

  2. Dr D Bereznicki October 11, 2013

    What are the questions you should ask when selecting a digital xray system?

    1. Denika October 29, 2013

      Dr. Bereznicki,

      That is a great question – looks like we will have to write a follow-up post.

      Thank you,


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