DR ANTHONY MAK IS USED TO WORKING IN DIFFICULT CONFINED SPACES. NOW THROUGH A UNIQUE DENTAL IMAGING COURSE HE’S TEACHING FELLOW PROFESSIONALS HOW TO SEE THE LIGHT.
Like many health professionals Anthony Mak was drawn to the field of dentistry by a strong desire to help others.
A highly skilled surgeon and dental practitioner who runs his own practices in Sydney’s Woollahra and Five Dock, Anthony’s dedication to his work has seen him awarded a slew of accolades as well as an invitation to return to the place of his graduation, Sydney University, as a lecturer and clinical associate.
“I have been passionate since my childhood about dentistry and helping people and I have a no-compromise approach to my work. Everything is done with a spirit of excellence.”
The father-of-two’s eagerness to spread the word about good oral health means that when he’s not in practice he can usually be found visiting schools and aged-care facilities within his local community to talk on the importance of oral healthcare.
A member of the Australian Dental Association, Australian Osseointegration Society, International Association of Orthodontics, American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, he also conducts mini-residency masterclasses through the Henry Schein Halas education portal.
Now the 39-year-old is applying that same approach to his work in dental photography. Having first developed an interest in clinical photography in 2000, a friend who was a camera enthusiast encouraged him to purchase a Nikon F50 with a 105mm micro lens, which he used for taking photos in his final two years of university.
However it wasn’t until attending a dental photography course in America that he truly understood the impact great dental photography could have on the way he and his team carried out their work.
Used to document treatment, aid colour analysis, treatment planning and for phonetic testing, dental photography is increasingly being used for enhanced patient education and communication, to aid insurance verifications, to protect against potential malpractice lawsuits and for professional instruction.
While photography has always been considered an invaluable part of dentistry, many oral health professionals are reluctant to introduce this service to their practice because of a lack of knowledge, a perceived interruption in workflow and concern over potential cost.
However with the advent of digital technologies, imaging has become more readily accessible.
However Anthony says the biggest hurdle he faced in first attempting to take quality imagery inside his patients’ mouths is the same issue many amateur photographers have when first starting out – conquering light dynamics. “[I struggled] to understand about light and creating shadows. [I also found it difficult to] manage and change the amount of light in the focal area to achieve the shot I wanted to [get].”
Complicating the issue was restricted workspace dentists are required to work in, he says. “We are always battling with a dark space at the back of the mouth, [we work in] confined spaces [and we have to take] photos in indirect vision i.e photos of a reflected image from a mirror in a patient’s mouth. But the biggest challenge is that we are dealing with a person in an uncomfortable environment.”
Armed with his arsenal of choice – including Nikon D7200 and Nikon D800 camera bodies, NIKKOR AF-S DX Micro 85mm f/3.5G ED VR and NIKKOR AF-S 105mm f/1.4E ED macro lenses and his SB2000 flashes – Anthony soon overcame his early struggles.
Yet despite the increased focus on dental photography in recent years, Anthony still believes there is a shortfall in the standard of images being produced by many dentists.
Mastering dental photography requires some extended knowledge over the simple “point and shoot” action, to release the full potential of the modern digital reflex cameras.
For this reason, last year he teamed up with Spanish dentist, and renowned dental photography specialist, Dr Javier Tapia Guadix to host a two-day lecture on advanced photo protocol.
As well as serving as a basic introduction to digital dentistry photography which covered shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and equipment selection, the theoretical part of the course covered topics that included optimizing capture settings, digital formats (RAW vs JPEG files) and Bio-Emulation. The practical component included processing, calibration and shade selection protocols.
The use of specific light modifiers, such as polar-eyes (a cross-polarisation filter that makes it easy to eliminate unwanted reflections on the teeth that are caused by the flash), fluor-eyes (a filter that allows you to take a picture of a tooth and see the fluor level) and bouncers (a reflecting material mounted on the flash), together with RAW capture and standardised white balance enable better understanding of how light works and a deeper analysis of the texture of the teeth, gums and mouth, he says.
The course proved so successful, the pair is considering running it again this year.
Words: Tracey Porter