Better for you; better for patients!

July 1, 2001
I hope to explore many of the newer technologies that help dentists determine and deliver better, more complete treatment to our patients.

I hope to explore many of the newer technologies that help dentists determine and deliver better, more complete treatment to our patients.

by Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FIGD

Going digital! Doesn't this phrase simply strike fear in the minds of typical dentists in the United States today?

That is, it does unless you are one of the small minority of "techno-geek" dentists, in which case you just love the digital world. You always are the first to purchase all of the digital technology that is available for your practice. You also are among the first to purchase digital devices for the home, such as digital cable television, a digital cell phone, a digital camera, or a digital handheld computer.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are just a little (sometimes very) uneasy with how quickly the world is changing. We worry about hardware and software. We worry about how it all works (and sometimes doesn't!) and whether our staff can be trained and will enjoy using all of this new technology.

I have been in professional dental practice for 21 years. I reflect on how the technology of diagnosis and treatment has changed during this time frame. My father practiced dentistry for more than 50 years. When he began practicing, he was working with slow-speed, belt-driven handpieces. He ended his career using small-headed, high-torque, high-speed handpieces with fiber optic lighting built into them.

Handpieces have not changed much during my career. The biggest changes for me have taken place in the area of dental radiology. When I first started my practice, we used high-radiation, cone-shaped X-ray heads with slower-speed film. Now, I am a strong advocate of diagnosing from digital images. These images use considerably less radiation, give me immediate pictures on a large, bright computer monitor. This is one technology that every dentist can use.

This monthly series of columns is titled "Digital Diagnosis." In the course of this series, I hope to explore the newer technology that helps dentists determine and deliver better, more complete treatment to our patients. After all, isn't this what we all are truly searching for in our practices?

So what are some of the other technologies besides digital radiography? Let's start by scoping out the landscape of digital diagnostic tools. Some tools you already will be familiar with; others may be completely new to you. We also will consider dental microscopes, digital cameras, intraoral cameras, cosmetic imaging tools, laser caries-detection tools, digital fiber-optic trans-illumination tools, and digital-periodontal probes. There are more, of course, but this is a good start.

During our series, we will look at how these technologies work, how they will improve the way you make your diagnoses, and how your patients will appreciate what you are doing for them. Hopefully, we will help you develop an agenda and a prioritized action plan for making your practice "go digital" in a fiscally responsible, orderly sequence.

I am looking forward to sharing not only my knowledge and experience, but also that of many of my industry colleagues, who, like me, have been drawn into this quest to "go digital." We feel that we have reached a comfortable vantage point from which we can offer help, support, and guidance to others.

I encourage you to contact me any time via my Web site at or e-mail me at [email protected]. I look forward to hearing from you!

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FIGD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesperson and critical-issue-response-team chairperson for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is Contact him by e-mail at [email protected], by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.

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