Salierno Chris 2020

Accelerating digital adoption

March 1, 2021
Dental Economics’ Chief Editor Dr. Chris Salierno believes we need to better acclimate to the acceleration of digital technologies.
Chris Salierno, DDS, Chief Dental Officer, Tend

Dental Economics has been in publication since 1911. I’ve had the great pleasure of pulling random issues from the archives in Tulsa and getting a glimpse into the hearts and minds of dentists from more than 100 years ago. Some things never change; dentists in 1933 were still complaining about how hard it is to find great front office personnel.

But technology changes, and the rate of that change is quickly increasing. Consider this statement: “I take intraoral scans of my new patients, so when I saw an emergency patient who fractured a maxillary central incisor, I combined that data with a CBCT I took in my office, printed a surgical guide, and immediately placed an implant and printed temp.”

Surely, to dentists in 1933, that would sound like jargon only Jules Verne could write. I would argue that dentists in 2003 would find this clinical scenario a bit puzzling as well, and that’s less than 20 years ago.

The acceleration of digital technological innovation is one of the most dizzying observations one has when looking at the past century of dentistry. I believe we need to better acclimate to this acceleration.

As health-care professionals, we are cautious. We want to make sure we provide services that meet or exceed the standard of care for our patients. We want to be reassured by sound research and prospective clinical studies. And throughout most of our history as a profession, technology has evolved slowly.

Take composite resin, for example. First introduced by Dr. Michael Buonocore in the 1950s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that composites started to become the standard for anterior restorations, thanks to continued development of resin materials and curing lights. Posterior composites became viable in the 1990s, but in the early 2000s you could still find many dentists who preferred amalgam for posterior restorations. 

Fifty years of slow development of composite resins allowed us to be cautious. But the digital technologies that will now transform our dental practices will not be that slow.

I am not advocating for us to abandon our research-based approach to providing care; far from it. I believe we must study and process the literature more quickly. I believe we should learn from other industries that have already adopted these digital technologies. Our pace for learning must quicken to keep up with the innovations ever before us. 

"Dental 3D printing for the technically challenged" and "Dental 3D printing: The technology of now" will get you caught up on 3D printing, which I believe will be the most transformative dental technology in the next few years. Dr. Michael Tornow makes his case for quick ROI analysis to decide when a technology is right for us. He also believes we should not let an abundance of caution hinder our practices. Also check out my piece on whether digital technologies that lower our costs should or should not affect our fees.

We don’t need to immediately start buying digital technologies for our practices, but we should at least immediately begin learning about them. We should listen to trusted key opinion leaders who, as early adopters, are already implementing these new workflows. We should become more comfortable with acceleration.

In the year 2033, we’ll still be complaining in DE about hiring front office personnel, but I’m willing to bet the digital innovations being discussed will sound like today’s science fiction.


Chris Salierno, DDS
[email protected]

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