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Title:
MODULAR OPERATORY LED LIGHT AND CAMERA SYSTEM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2009/023872
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A dental procedure scope including a housing and a plurality of light emitting diodes supported by the housing. The light emitting diodes being arranged to illuminate a mouth of a dental patient while staying out of the eyes of the dental patient when the end of the housing is positioned less than about twenty-four inches from the mouth of dental patient. The dental procedure scope further including a camera having an image sensor positioned therein and a lens connected to the camera. The lens is spaced from the image sensor to permit a magnified image of an object to be captured by the image sensor when the lens is positioned at least about five inches from the object with a depth of field at least about 3.5 inches. A monitor is connected to the camera to view the magnified image of the object captured by the image sensor.

Inventors:
DONAHOO, Randall, W. (2239 Twin Creek Lane, Newcastle, OK, 73065, US)
SEAWELL, Robert (3371 Hanks St, Sacramento, CA, 95827, US)
HARRISON, Lee (1602 25th Avenue N.w, Olympia, WA, 98502, US)
Application Number:
US2008/073500
Publication Date:
February 19, 2009
Filing Date:
August 18, 2008
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MAGNIFIED VIDEO DENTISTRY, INC. (1602 25th Avenue N.W, Olympia, WA, 98502, US)
DONAHOO, Randall, W. (2239 Twin Creek Lane, Newcastle, OK, 73065, US)
SEAWELL, Robert (3371 Hanks St, Sacramento, CA, 95827, US)
HARRISON, Lee (1602 25th Avenue N.w, Olympia, WA, 98502, US)
International Classes:
A61C1/00
Foreign References:
US20040185412A1
US20060240378A1
US6244863B1
US20020115037A1
US20070099148A1
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
ROUSE, Nicholas, D. (Dunlap Codding, P.C.P.O. Box 1637, Oklahoma City OK, 73113, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:

What is claimed is:

1. A dental procedure scope, comprising: a housing having a first end, a second end, and defining an internal cavity; and a plurality of light emitting diodes provided in the internal cavity of the housing so as to be arranged near the first end of the housing, the light emitting diodes being arranged to illuminate a mouth of a dental patient while staying out of the eyes of the dental patient when the end of the housing is positioned less than about twenty-four inches from the mouth of dental patient.

2. The dental procedure scope of claim 1 further comprising at least one curing light provided in the internal cavity of the housing, the curing light having a wavelength sufficient to cure a light-cured material.

3. The dental procedure scope of claim 1 further comprising a polarizing lens disposed between the light emitting diodes and the mouth of the patient.

4. The dental procedure scope of claim 1 further comprising a heat sink positioned in the internal cavity of the housing and in thermal communication with the light emitting diodes.

5. The dental procedure scope of claim 1 further comprising: a camera positioned in the internal cavity of the housing, the camera having an image sensor positioned therein; a lens connected to the camera, the lens spaced from the image sensor to permit a magnified image of the patient's mouth when the patient's mouth is illuminated by the light emitting diodeslens with a depth of field at least about 3.5 inches; and a monitor connected to the camera to view the magnified image of the patient's mouth captured by the image sensor.

6. The dental procedure scope of claim 1 wherein the housing is connected to an articulating arm assembly connectable to a support surface.;

7. The dental procedure scope of claim 5, further comprising a plurality of monitors connected to the camera to view the image captured by the camera.

8. The dental procedure scope of claim 5, wherein the lens is adjustable relative to the image sensor to change the magnification of the image of the object from about 2x to about 22x with the depth of field remaining at least about 3.5 inches.

Description:

MODULAR OPERATORY LED LIGHT AND CAMERA SYSTEM

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/956,210, filed August 16, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to a light and/or camera system, and more particularly, but not by way of limitation, to an improved extra-oral, operatory LED light and camera system and methods of using same.

2. Brief Description of Related Art

[0003] Today's dental procedures are highly labor intensive; and require dentists to make adjustments to their daily practices. For example, procedures such as cosmetic dentistry, root canals, perio surgery, and implant dentistry require a dentist to spend lengthy periods of time looking inside a patient's mouth while performing dental examinations and procedures. Today's dental techniques require dentists to frequently twist and turn while reaching for numerous dental instruments as well as requiring dentists to look within a patient's mouth for extended periods of time (i.e. , two to three hours) without movement. It is well known that dentists must position their upper torsos in a hunched or bent position over the patient's mouth to properly position and utilize their instruments and eyes to perform such procedures. [0004] It has been reported that at least 40 to 60 percent of dentists suffer from neck, back, and shoulder pain resulting from the movements and positions described above that a dentist must maintain to perform dental procedures. As a result, many dentists must rely on weekly therapeutic or chiropractic treatment to alleviate or minimize pain resulting from the required positioning of their upper torsos. Due to the fact that many dentists can only work up to three days per week because of the bodily pain associated with the body positioning demanded by their practice, many dentists must seek early retirement.

[0005] In the last few years, many dentists have started using dental loupes or magnifying glasses to prevent bending or hunching their upper torsos while performing oral procedures. Such devices have enhanced a dentist's view of the mouth yet have added excess weight to their face/nose area creating added strain on the neck, back, and shoulder area. Furthermore, because of the proximity of the lenses to the patient's mouth, the lenses often become clouded with water spray.

[0006] Intra-oral and extra-oral cameras have also been suggested for use in dental practices. However, such cameras are limited in their use. Intra-oral cameras are designed to be positioned in the patient's mouth to take an image for the purpose of documenting cases, simulating treatment results, communicating more easily with labs, and to correspond with fellow colleagues. Intra-oral cameras are not designed to be used to allow a dentist to perform a procedure while monitoring the work area on a monitor. In contrast, it has been suggested to use an extra-oral camera to project an image of the patient's mouth on a monitor to allow the dentist to perform a dental procedure while viewing the monitor, thereby allowing the dentist to remain in a more ergonomic position. However, to this point, a camera has not been available that provides a clear, magnified image of the entire patient's mouth. That is, cameras that provide sufficient magnification suffer from a shallow depth of field, while cameras that provide a suitable depth of field suffer from a lack of magnification. As such, to maintain a clear image of a work area requires the dentist to continually make adjustments to the focus of the camera which is a cumbersome task, particularly when the dentist is in the middle of a procedure. [0007] Modern dental procedures may include cleanings, inspections, oral surgeries, bleaching, and/or any of the other numerous dental procedures known in the art. Such procedures require numerous and diverse pieces of equipment, for example, various illuminating and/or bleaching lights and/or cameras for capturing or displaying still and/or moving images. These various pieces of equipment may be cost-prohibitive, impractically large, and may each consist of numerous components that must be tracked and maintained.

[0008] To this end, a need exists for an extra-oral, operatory LED light and camera system that permits a dentist to selectively illuminate the oral cavity, clearly photograph the oral cavity, activate a bleaching agent with a bleaching light, and/or allow the dentist to work on a patient's teeth while maintaining an ergonomically correct posture and which provides an illuminated, clear, and magnified image of the patient's mouth. It is to such a system that the present invention is directed.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS [0009] FIG. 1 is an exploded perspective view of an LED light and camera assembly constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0010] FIG. 2 is an exploded perspective view of one embodiment of an LED light assembly constructed in accordance with the present invention. [0011] FIG. 3 is an assembled view of the LED light assembly of FIG. 2. [0012] FIG. 4 is an exploded perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light assembly constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0013] FIG. 5 is a schematic view of a camera and zoom lens suitable for use with the LED light and camera assembly of FIG. 1.

[0014] FIG. 6 is a perspective view of a lighting and camera system constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0015] FIG. 7 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light and camera system constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0016] FIG. 8 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light and camera system constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0017] FIG. 9 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light and camera system constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0018] FIG. 10 is a perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light and camera system constructed in accordance with the present invention.

[0019] FIG. 11 is a schematic view of a camera, lens, and prism combination for providing a three dimensional image.

[0020] FIG. 12 is a schematic view of a system capable of producing a three dimensional image.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0021] Referring now to the drawings, and in particular to FIG. 1 , an operatory LED light and camera assembly 10 is shown constructed in accordance with the present invention. In the embodiment shown, the assembly 10 is provided with a housing 14, a plurality of light emitting diodes (LED's) 18, a polarized lens 22, a heat sink 26, and a camera 30. The housing 14 is preferably molded of a substantially rigid and durable material such as aluminum, plastic, polymer, alloy or any other suitable material. As shown, in the preferred embodiment, the housing 14 is provided with an upper housing portion 34 and a lower housing portion 38. The upper and lower housing portions 34 and 38 are each preferably formed with a first end 42, a second end 46, and a pair of handle portions 50 extending laterally outward, such that when the upper and lower housing portions 34 and 38 are assembled, the various corresponding portions 42, 46, and 50 align to form a complete housing 14 (FIG. 4). The upper and lower housing portions 34 and 38 may be connected to one another by any suitable means (not shown) such as adhesive, welds, screws, rivets, other mechanical fasteners, interlocking tabs and/or slots, or by any other suitable method or combination of methods. [0022] The plurality of LED's 18 are preferably medical grade, non-UV, cool white LED lights. The assembly 18 is depicted with four LED's, however, the assembly 10 may be provided with any suitable number of LED's to increase or decrease the amount of light provided by the assembly 10 in operation. The LED's 18 may also be provided in any suitable pattern, but are

preferably distributed about at least a portion of the camera 30 so as to evenly and fully illuminate a target area, for example, on or in a patients mouth. The LED's 18 are preferably arranged to simultaneously project beams of light that intersect at about 16 to 18 inches from the second end 38 of the housing 14. This distance is substantially shorter than previously possible, due in large part to the much cooler operating temperature of the LED's 18 relative to previous bulbs. However, in other embodiments, the LED's may be arranged such that their respective beams of light intersect at any suitable distance from the housing 14. It has been found that arranging the LED's to provide an illuminated area of about 5 inches by about 2 inches at or about the point where the individual beams of light intersect is well-suited to dental examinations of a patient's mouth. However, the LED's 18 may be arranged to provided an illuminated area of any suitable size.

[0023] In the preferred embodiment, the LED's 18 are color corrected to provide true color light in the range of 5000 to 6700 Kelvin color temperature. The light emitted by the LED's 18 in this color temperature range is particularly useful for shade and color matching of a patient's existing dentition. The intensity of light emitted by the LED's is also preferably adjustable, such as with an electronic control circuit or potentiometer. For example, the assembly 10 is preferably provided with a low-level light setting to permit a dentist or other user to illuminate a target area in which light-cured materials are being used, so as to illuminate the area and work with the light-cured materials without prematurely curing the light-cured materials. [0024] In one preferred embodiment, the assembly 10 is provided with one or more curing lights 18a. The curing lights 18a are preferably LED's that provide light of a certain predetermined wavelength, for example 375nm, 750nm, or the like, that a dentist may use to cure a light-cured material and/or to activate a light-activated bleaching agent (not shown). In other embodiments, the curing lights 18a may be any suitable light source, for example one or more lasers or halogen bulbs emitting light of a predetermined wavelength. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, such curing light sources 18a may emit a range of wavelengths or may emit only the pre-determined wavelength. In either case, the present invention is not intended to be limited to curing lights 18a emitting only a single wavelength. Rather, the present invention should be understood to encompass curing lights 18a which emit at least one predetermined wavelength of light so as to perform the functions described above. Electrical power is preferably provided by a wired connection (not shown) entering the housing 14 to the LED's 18 and/or curing light(s) 18a, and may also be provided by batteries (not shown) within the housing 14. In some preferred embodiments, the wired connection (not shown) may be provided with a selective connection, such as a plug, so the assembly 10 can be selectively connected and disconnected from a power source.

[0025] The assembly 10 is also preferably provided with a polarized lens 22 disposed between the LED's 18 and a target area to be illuminated. In the preferred embodiment, the polarizing lens 22 is selectively adjustable, such as by rotating the lens 22, and/or removable so as to adapt the assembly 10 for use in a variety of applications and circumstances. The function of the polarizing lens 22 is well known in the art, and in this specific implementation, the polarizing lens 22 reduces the glare caused by the light reflecting off of wet surfaces, such as teeth or smooth surfaces of the tongue or other flesh within the patient's mouth (not shown). As shown, the polarizing lens 22 is preferably cut out or otherwise disposed about the camera 30 so as to permit the camera 30 to receive all reflected light. In other embodiments or applications of the assembly 10, it may be advantageous to provide the polarizing lens in front of the camera 30 so as to polarize the light incident on the camera 30. In yet further embodiments, it may be advantageous to dispose the polarizing lens 22 in front of the camera 30 but not in front of the LED's 18 so as to permit all emitted light to illuminate the target area and only polarize the light reflected from the target area as it enters the camera 30. When the assembly 10 is provided with one or more curing lights 18a, the polarized lens 22 will preferably be cut out, disposed about the curing light(s) 18a, or provided with a non-polarizing portion such that the light emitted from the curing light 18(a) is not polarized. However, in some embodiments, it may be desirable to polarize the light emitted from the curing light(s) 18a as well. [0026] Additionally, the assembly 10 is also preferably provided with a heat sink 26 to absorb and more rapidly dissipate the thermal energy generated by the LED's 18. The LED's 18 may be mounted directly onto the heat sink 26, or may be indirectly mounted to the heat sink 26, such as with a mounting plate (not shown), so long as the LED's are in thermal communication with the heat sink 26. Essentially, the thermal energy generated by the LED's 18 is transferred to the heat sink 26. The heat sink 26 is preferably formed of a material with high thermal conductivity, such as, for example, aluminum, brass, alloys, or the like. The heat sink 26 is preferably provided with a plurality of fins 52 to increase the surface area available for dissipation of the thermal energy generated by the LED's 18. Heat sinks and their function are well known in the art. Thus, no further description is deemed necessary to enable one skilled in the art to implement the various embodiments of the present invention. Although the heat sink 26 is preferably included in the assembly 10, in some embodiments, it may be omitted, supplemented, or substituted with various other cooling devices such as fans, radiators, or the like.

[0027] The camera 30 is preferably provided with a zoom lens 54 and adapted to provide a clear, magnified image of the patient's mouth, or any other target area, with a depth of field that extends over the entire mouth of the patient. More specifically, the camera 30 preferably allows magnification up to about 22x with a depth of field of from about 3.5 inches to about 4.5 inches

and the lens 54 positioned a distance, between about five inches to about twenty inches, from the patient's mouth. As such, the depth of the patient's entire mouth may remain in focus eliminating the need to continuously refocus the camera 30. Also, the camera 30 is maintained at a distance from the patient so that it remains out of the way of a dentist 112 (FIG. 6) performing a procedure and the lens 54 is not susceptible to becoming fogged or clouded by a patient's breath or spray from dental instruments.

[0028] In the preferred embodiment, and as best shown in FIG. 5, the camera 30 is preferably a color CCD, CMOS, or high definition camera that includes an image sensor 58 (FIG. 5), a full control on-screen menu, flicker control, and the ability to control shutter speed. An example of a suitable camera is Model No. S1 -C400N available from Costar Group Company, Ltd. of South Korea which has been modified to cause the lens 54 to be positioned in a range of approximately 3 mm to approximately 6 mm closer to the image sensor 58 than intended by an original camera to modify the focal length or so that the distance between the optics of the lens 54 and the CCD is in the range of about 10 mm to about 13mm. This modification is achieved by reducing the length of a ring adapter 62. In the preferred embodiment, the image sensor 58 is a 1/2 inch CCD. However, it should be appreciated that 1/3 inch and 1/4 inch CCDs can be used. Also, the camera 30 may be provided with a three-chip CCD allowing for more precise color separation for cancer screening and pathology review. Also, the camera may be used in a mono configuration as in FIG. 5, or provide a stereo or 3-D (three dimensional) image by using a single camera, prism and lens as illustrated in FIG. 11 , or dual cameras with the appropriate software to produce and display a 3-D image as illustrated in FIG. 12. Camera 30 may also be provided with a multi-imager camera, such as a three chip CCD allowing more precise color separation for cancer and pathology review.

[0029] In the preferred embodiment, the lens 54 is a macro zoom lens. An example of a suitable lens is Model No. MLH-10X, available from Computar. Such a lens is provided with aperture, zoom, and focus ability that enables the use of ambient light only. As such, external light sources are not required. However, it should be appreciated that in many applications, it will be desirable and advantageous to utilize the LED's 18 in conjunction with the camera 30 to illuminate a patient's mouth or any other target area.

[0030] To compensate for the modification to the focal length, various settings of the camera and lens may be adjusted. In one preferred embodiment, the lens 54 is preferably set to manual; and the camera 30 is preferably set as follows: AGC - 32dp, shutter - 1/60, white balance at 5600k to match the 5500k LED, back light - on, gamma -14 level 0.45, color at phase - 04 (level - 04), sharpness - low, contrast - off, brightness - level 05, flickerless - on. In other embodiments, these settings may be adjusted for various models, sizes, and/or variations of cameras and lenses.

[0031] Spacers may be also be used between the lens 54 and the camera 30 to cause the focal length to be changed so that the combination of the camera 30 and the lens 54 may be customized depending on the type of dentistry being conducted. For example, no spacer may be required if the dentist is conducting general dentistry. However, spacers of various sizes may be used for endodontic procedures, periodontic procedures, and various other procedures, as necessary and/or advantageous.

[0032] Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3, exploded and assembled perspective views of one embodiment of an LED light assembly 10a are shown, respectively, constructed in accordance with the present invention. The assembly 10a of FIGS. 2 and 3 is similar in many respects to the assembly 10 of FIG. 1. As shown, the assembly 10a is provided with a substantially similar housing 14a, plurality of LED's 18 and bleaching lights 18a, polarizing lens 22a, and heat sink 26a. The housing 14a is similarto the housing 14 of FIG. 1 , except the housing 14a is provided with a protrusion 66 for selectively mounting the assembly 10a on articulated arm 104 (FIG. 6) or other device (not shown). The protrusion 66 is preferably provided with a male or female mechanical and electrical connector (not shown) at least partially within the protrusion 66 such that the assembly 10a can be selectively mounted on and/or disengaged from the articulated arm 104 (FIG. 6). The connector (not shown) preferably includes one or more electrical, and/or optical connections to provided power to the LED's 18, curing light(s) 18a, and, where included, camera 30 (FIG. 1); as well as to communicate images from the camera 30 and/or data to the camera 30 (FIG. 1). The housing 14a is also preferably provided with one or more slots 70 to permit airflow into and out of the housing 14a to assist with dissipation of thermal energy from the heat sink 26a.

[0033] The primary difference between the assembly 10a of FIG. 2 and the assembly 10 of FIG. 1 is that the camera 30 has been omitted from the assembly 10a and the various components of the assembly 10a have been modified to compensate therefore. Specifically, eight LED's 18 are depicted and provided to largely fill the space at the second end 46 of the housing 14a between the upper and lower housing portions 34a and 38a. As described above, the assembly 10a is also preferably provided with one or more curing lights 18a that may be utilized to cure light-cured materials or to activate light-activated bleaching materials. [0034] In the assembly 10a, the polarizing lens 22a is preferably formed to cover the entire space at the second end 46 of the housing 14a between the upper and lower housing portions 34a and 38a. However, as above, when the assembly 10a is provided with one or more curing lights 18a, the polarized lens 22 will preferably be cut out, disposed about the curing light(s) 18a, or provided with a non-polarizing portion such that the light emitted from the curing light 18(a) is not polarized. However, in some embodiments, it may be desirable to polarize the light emitted from the curing light(s) 18a as well.

[0035] The assembly 10a is also provided with a second embodiment of a heat sink 26a that may be utilized with the present invention. As shown, the heat sink 26a is provided with a smooth outer surface 52a rather than fins, and is preferably adapted for use with or without a camera 30 (FIG. 1). As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, the omission of fins, where unnecessary for dissipation of thermal energy, may reduce the manufacturing costs for the heat sink 26a. Additionally, the assembly 10a is provided with a secondary mounting plate 74 that may be attached to the heat sink 26a by any suitable means, such as adhesive, screws, welds, or the like. The mounting plate 74 is preferably larger than the heat sink 26a, such that the mounting plate 74 extends past the heat sink 26a to engage corresponding tabs, ridges, slots, or the like (not shown) in the housing 14a to maintain the heat sink 26a, LED's 18, and curing lights 18a in proper alignment relative to the housing 14a.

[0036] Referring now to FIG. 4, an exploded perspective view of another embodiment of an LED light assembly 10b is shown constructed in accordance with the present invention. The assembly 10b of FIG. 4 is similar to the assembly 10a of FIGS. 2 and 3, with the exception of several differences. Specifically, the assembly 10b is provided with another embodiment of a heat sink 26b. The heat sink 26b is provided with an elongated construction which increases the surface area available to dissipate thermal energy while also providing added support for the housing 14b and omitting fins to reduce manufacturing costs. As indicated by the hidden LED lines 18b, the heat sink 26b may be used with any suitable number of LED's 18, one or more curing light(s) 18a, and/or a camera 30 (FIG. 1).

[0037] Additionally, the assembly 10b is may be provided with a fan 78 attached to either the portion of the heat sink 26b adjacent the first end 42 of the housing 14b, or directly to the first end 42 of the housing. The fan 78 preferably increases the rate at which thermal energy is dissipated from the heat sink 26b.

[0038] Referring now to FIG. 6, an LED light and camera system 100 constructed in accordance with the present invention is illustrated. Broadly, the system 100 preferably includes an LED light and camera assembly 10, an articulating support arm assembly 104, and a monitor 108. The system 100 enables a dentist 112 to work on a patient's teeth while viewing the monitor 108 thereby permitting the dentist 112 to maintain an ergonomically correct posture. [0039] The support arm assembly 104 is adapted to support the combination of the light and camera assembly 10 above the mouth of a patient when in use and also allows the assembly 10 to be stored out of the way in a relatively compact space. The support arm assembly 104 includes a base 116 that is adapted to be secured to a support surface such as the floor (not shown) or a wall, cabinet, counter top 120a (FIG. 7), track, ceiling 120b (FIG. 8), or other support structure, such as a mobile cart 120c (FIG. 9). The monitor 108 may be supported on similar support surfaces.

[0040] A vertical extension member 124 is preferably connected to the base 116. In a preferred embodiment, the vertical extension member 124 is approximately twelve inches in length, but the length may also be varied. A swivel arm 128 is connected to the upper end of the vertical extension member 124. The swivel arm 128 includes an arcuate portion 132 and a vertical portion 136. The arcuate portion 132 is rotatably connected to the upper end of the vertical extension member 124. The distal end of the vertical portion 136 is rotatably connected to a boom arm assembly 140. In a preferred embodiment, the arcuate portion 132 has a length of about 25 inches and a width of about ten inches. The vertical portion 136 preferably has a length of about four inches.

[0041] The boom arm assembly 140 includes a first spring housing 144, an arm 148, and a second spring housing 152. The first spring housing 144 is pivotally connected to one end of the arm 148 and the second spring housing 152 is pivotally connected near the other end of the arm 148. In a preferred embodiment, the arm 148 has a length of approximately 30 inches, but the length of the arm 148 may vary widely.

[0042] The first and second spring housings 144 and 152 enclose coil springs (not shown) which support the arm 148 in a desired position. The second spring housing 152 is rotatably connected to an extension member 156. The extension member 156 is preferably adapted to engage and support the assembly 10.

[0043] The embodiments depicted in FIGS. 7 and 9 include a rocker arm assembly 160 pivotally connected to the respective base 116a or 116c. The rocker arm assembly 160 includes a first support bracket 164, a second support bracket 168, and an arm 172. One end of the arm 172 is pivotally connected to the first support bracket 164 and an opposing end of the arm 172 is pivotally connected to the second support bracket 168. The first support bracket 164 is rotatably mounted to the respective base 116a or 116c to permit 360 degrees of rotation. The rocker arm assembly 160 further includes an actuator 17 extending between the first support bracket 164 and the second support bracket 168 so as to permit the second support bracket 168 to be moved in an up and down motion relative to the first support bracket 164 in a controlled manner. In a preferred embodiment, the arm 172 has a length of about sixteen inches.

[0044] The support arm assembly 104 allows the light and camera assembly 10 to be moved up and down and side to side to permit the assembly 10 to be positioned at a desired position relative to a patient's mouth. The construction of the support arm assembly 104 allows the assembly 10 to be positioned anywhere from approximately 26 inches from the floor to about 90 inches off the floor, reach approximately 72 inches across a room, and be stored in an approximately 36 inch wide space. The springs 144 and actuators 152 are adjusted to eliminate drift and create easy movement of the support arm assembly 104.

[0045] Cables (not shown) extending between the assembly 10 (camera 30, FIG. 1) and the monitor 108 and a power supply (not shown) are run through the support arm assembly 104. It should also be appreciated the assembly 10 (camera 30, FIG. 1) and the monitor 108 may communicate without the use of cables through wireless technology. For example, using radio frequency or infrared waves to communicate data between the devices. [0046] The system 100 and/or the assembly 10 further includes a picture capture device to freeze frame images on the monitor 108. In one embodiment, the picture capture device uses a foot pedal control to allow a user to capture images and either view full size single images or quad-format screens with four images at once. The system 10 may communicate the captured pictures or real-time video to a recording device such as a VCR, DVD recorder, or saved into a computer system. For example, images may be archived for procedures for liability purposes, patient communication, or as a teaching and training tool. The system 100 preferably further includes a printer to print such pictures. The picture capture device further includes a mirror image switch so that a dentist can get either a direct view or a mirror image view on the monitor 108.

[0047] The system 100 is also adapted to be used in combination with an intra-oral camera so that a dentist can get an angle view of what he is working on when using a hand drill which is typically positioned over the teeth and blocking the view of the camera 30 (FIG. 1). Use of an intra-oral camera allows one to set the camera at an angle so the dentist can see on the screen and not have to use a mirror.

[0048] The system 10 further utilizes filters made for dental, medical, or industrial lasers which can create sparks each time the laser is fired. The filters will take out the spark on the monitor 108. The filters are preferably positioned at or near the end of the lens 54 (FIG. 5). Additionally, a variety of diopters may be used on the end of the lens 54 to provide different focal lengths and depths of field.

[0049] In use, the assembly 10 is positioned to view the mouth of a patient. The unique combination of the camera 30, lens 54 (FIG. 5), and LED's 18 (FIG. 1) allows the assembly 10 to be positioned a distance of approximately five to twenty-four inches from the patient's mouth thereby not interfering with the work of the dentist. The monitor 108 is positioned for ease of viewing by the dentist. The camera 30 (FIG. 1) is focused on the tooth or teeth to be worked on. Once the work area is set up, the dentist can view the work area on the monitor instead of bent over in the mouth.

[0050] FIG. 10 illustrates another embodiment of a system 100c which is substantially similar to the systems 100, 100a, and 100b, described above, except the system 10a includes a first monitor 18a and a second monitor 18b. The first monitor 108a is positioned to be viewed by the dentist 112 while the second monitor 108b is positioned to be viewed by an assistant 112a.

As a result, the assistant 112a may view what the dentist 1 12 is viewing and maintain an ergonomic position.

[0051] In one preferred embodiment, the system 100 is provided with an articulated arm and two or more modularly-interchangeable light assemblies 10a and/or light and camera assemblies 10. For example, the system 100 may be provided with: a first light assembly 10 having a plurality of LED's 18, such as for illuminating a patient's mouth; a second light assembly 10 having one or more curing light(s) 18a, such as for activating a light-activated bleaching material, a third light assembly 10 having a plurality of LED's and a polarizing lens 22, such as for reducing glare during inspection and manual photography; a fourth light assembly 10 having a plurality of LED's 18 and a camera 30 for illuminating and viewing a patients mouth during the performance of dental procedures; and/or may be provided with any other assembly or assemblies 10 having combinations of any of the elements therein described with reference to FIGS. 1-4. In some embodiments of the system 100, the monitor 108 may be omitted, such as when the system 10 is not provided with an assembly having a camera 30. Preferably, the system 100 is provided with an articulated arm that is adapted to be used with modular assemblies 10, 10a, etc. having any one or combination of the various functional components described above.

[0052] It should also be appreciated that the system 100 of the present invention may additionally be used for medical procedures, veterinarian procedures, quality control of machining processes, and other processes that benefit from working in a magnified environment.

[0053] From the above description, it is clear that the present invention is well adapted to carry out the objects and to attain the advantages mentioned herein, as well as those inherent in the invention. While presently preferred embodiments of the invention have been described for purposes of this disclosure, it will be understood that numerous changes may be made which will readily suggest themselves to those skilled in the art and which are accomplished within the spirit of the invention disclosed and as defined in the appended claims.




 
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