Sharing photos with the lab (or anyone else) using Dropbox

Dropbox-LogoIf you’re like me, you take lots of photos of your patients. If you’re also like me, you find sharing them with the lab to be a bit of a chore.

I won’t explain how to take photos. I’m clearly not qualified for that. I will tell you that smart people who know better than I do have told me not to bother printing digital photos and sending them to the lab. Dr. Mike DiTolla recently opined in episode 14 of the DentalHacks podcast (shameless plug) that if you aren’t springing for the right kind of printer paper and an expensive photo printer then your printed photos aren’t very helpful to a lab technician trying to match your shade.

But if you’ve ever tried to email photos to the lab you’ll find that the size of the photos that most digital cameras take is huge. Typically we’re talking several MB per photo when you’re taking high quality photos. So attaching them to email is a pain. Many email servers won’t allow you to send emails multiple files attached to them that are that large.

I’ve solved this problem using Dropbox. I’ve been a Dropbox Pro member for several years. I’ve paid $99/year for 100 GB of cloud storage that I can access on any device. It’s been handy. This year I started to approach 70% of my 100GB and was wondering what I would do once I got close. The folks at Dropbox fixed that problem before I ever really approached it by upgrading the Pro level to 1 TB of cloud storage. Same $99/year with 10x the storage. With that much storage, you can afford to be a little sloppy with it!

Anyhow, Dropbox allows you to share photos or folders with multiple photos with a simple link. Take a look at this short video tutorial for details. The video assumes that you’ve got a working Dropbox account and you have a photo somewhere on Dropbox that you’d like to send.

By uploading your photos to Dropbox you make it possible to share that photo with a simple link, rather than attaching it to an email. Even better you can put several photos in a folder and share the entire folder with a link. All the sudden you aren’t trying to figure out which photo or which angle is the best for the lab. Send them all and give the lab as much information as possible!

If you have any questions about how to use Dropbox to share photos or suggestions of other ways to use Dropbox to simplify your workflow leave them in the comments!


Doing reps

Let’s say you need a procedure. Perhaps a filling or a crown. You have a choice between two dentists to do the procedure for you. You can choose yourself at this moment or you can choose yourself 10 years ago. Or 5 years ago. Or 20 years ago. The point being you are choosing yourself at a time when you had significantly less experience than you do right this second.

Who would you choose? I’d wager that you would choose yourself at this moment. Why is that? It could be that you’ve started using a new instrument or learned a new technique. It could be because the technology has come a long way since you were the other you. But most likely it’s the reps you’ve put in.

I look back on some of the work that I did 15+ years ago. Some of it I’m kind of proud of, but more often I cringe a little. I see underprepared crowns. I see overprepared direct restorations. Mostly I see things that were done to the very best of my ability at that time. Which is good. But much of it I would do quite differently today.

When I was a newly licensed dentist I planned to take the world by storm. I thought I knew a lot. And let’s face it, I did. I knew how to pass tests. National boards, clinical boards, microbiology exams, operative practicals. I knew how to play within the rules that were set by others that proved I was qualified to be a part of the profession.

What I didn’t know a lot about was how to be a dentist. I had done a bare minimum of clinical work on patients. I sometimes complain about how little clinical training I had, but let’s be honest. How much would have been enough? If I had done 5 more crowns in a setting where I had to check in with an instructor at every step would that have made me “experienced?” Probably not.

I’ve become the clinican that I am through reps. I’ve diagnosed real disease on real patients and then treated them. And make no mistake, I’ve learned how to treat patients by treating patients. It isn’t that I’m asking patients to be guinea pigs. But to some extent I ask them to believe in my abilities and experience up to that day.

Your patients trust your judgement and ability even though they really can’t know much about either. A poorly done restoration can be done painlessly. I’m not trying to make newcomers to the profession feel bad. You can’t get experience without doing the reps. But understand that most of us learn best by doing. I was never any good at reading the directions and then doing exactly as the directions said and having success. Those directions were written by someone with experience but were being read by me: someone with much less or different experience. For me, dentistry is a “learn by doing” profession. The only way I learn is by being open minded enough to see that there are different ways to get the job done and being patient enough to try something new.

The profession continues to evolve and as clinicians we evolve as well. I believe that most of us really do the best that we can at any given moment. But make no mistake, we get better by doing reps. This isn’t an excuse to be cavalier about treatment but a call to humility. Do your best, but be committed to being better next time.