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Dental Photography as a Laboratory Communication Tool


Patient photographs accompanying a prescription can prove invaluable to the laboratory technician, visually communicating case information that may be too difficult or time-consuming to describe verbally. In the edentulous situation presented here, photos are used to establish vertical dimension of occlusion, closest speaking space, smile lines, parallelism of the incisal horizontal plane and midline for a trial denture setup.
bockhorst   Bradley C. Bockhorst, DMD
Director of Clinical Technologies, Glidewell Laboratories
Newport Beach, Calif.
After receiving his dental degree from Washington University School of Dental Medicine, Dr. Bradley Bockhorst served as a Navy Dental Officer. Dr. Bockhorst is Director of Clinical Technologies at Glidewell Laboratories, where he oversees Inclusive® Digital Implant Treatment Planning Services and is editor-in-chief and clinical editor of Inclusive magazine. A member of the CDA, ADA, Academy of Osseointegration, International Congress of Oral Implantologists and American Academy of Implant Dentistry, Dr. Bockhorst lectures internationally on an array of dental implant topics.


Patient photographs are one of the most useful tools available to a clinician when working up a case and communicating with the laboratory, and they can be especially helpful when treating edentulous cases. For a trial denture setup, tooth arrangement, shade, midline, vertical dimension of occlusion and closest speaking space can be evaluated. When deciding between an overdenture and a screw-retained denture, a trial denture without a labial flange can be used to evaluate the transition line in relation to the smile line and midface support. Including photographs with your lab prescription can prove invaluable in helping the technician achieve your desired treatment goals.

The images that follow illustrate this technique. Like the old axiom states: A picture can say a thousand words!

Figure 1a: With the patient's lips closed, measure the vertical dimension of occlusion. Then ask the patient to swallow and let his or her lower jaw relax to evaluate the vertical dimension at rest.
Figure 1b: With the patient's lips slightly open, evaluate the incisal edge position and closest speaking space by asking the patient to pronounce "f," "ch" and "s" sounds.
Figure 2a: Smile line
Figure 2b: High smile line
Figure 3a: Smile line without prosthesis
Figure 3b: High smile line without prosthesis. NOTE: The maxillary ridge can be seen.
Figure 4a: Profile with labial flange
Figure 4b: Profile without labial flange
Figure 5a: Evaluating the incisal horizontal plane in relation to the interpupillary line
Figure 5b: Evaluating the midline

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