Rikki don't lose that number

April 14, 2014
In most offices, when the patient is scheduled for full-mouth charting, a cry rings out from the hygienist: "Who is available at 2 p.m. to help with charting? I'll take anyone ...

By Paul Feuerstein, DMD

Perio charting. Who loves it?

In most offices, when the patient is scheduled for full-mouth charting, a cry rings out from the hygienist: "Who is available at 2 p.m. to help with charting? I'll take anyone – even the front desk!" With the new chartless practice-management systems, this also adds a problem in some offices as the chart has to be displayed. The missing teeth must be up to date (don't tell me you are all perfect in this regard), and the keyboard has to be in a reasonable place in the room for number entry.

One simple solution I have seen is a separate USB number pad (under $10) that can be connected directly to a computer or USB external port, and if necessary, with a USB extension cord. I just found a Targus Wireless Numeric Keypad listing at $30 but retailing for less than $20 if you search (but read the reviews).

Other solutions have been in the dental marketplace for a while. Most notable is the Florida Probe. This is an electronic probe with a spring-loaded tip that allows the operator to go around the arch with reasonable speed and create a graphical display that is easy to read. It can be integrated with the practice-management system, printed, and sent via email.

Since it is using a predetermined pressure in the sulcus, the main plus is that it is reproducible by the same and other operators. This is important as the patient is monitored for changes. There is an option for the device to call out the numbers as they are recorded so the patient can hear them. In addition, since the device is doing the measurement, you do not have to read the striations on the probe (or squint if you are not wearing magnification) or guess if using one with markers every 3 mm. The original unit is steam-autoclavable. The company now has a disposable one-use handpiece called Dolphin, and has a wireless-keypad option that comes with the probing software.

But the process doesn't stop here. The company recently debuted VoiceWorks, which allows the operator to use a microphone/headset and just call out numbers, as well as conditions such as recession, bleeding, and furcations. Voice recognition has been around, but the issue with most systems is that the vocabulary is extensive and might not pick up words properly such as "suppuration" or "furcation."

This system has a smaller, more-focused vocabulary for the task at hand, and of course, uses the Florida Probe visual software chart. (There had been a good voice recognition product a few years ago, PerioPal, but it seems to have vanished.) More information is at www.floridaprobe.com.

A different approach was taken by Becky Logue, a dental hygienist in Idaho. She developed a foot- controlled mouse with buttons that, when stepped on, record the pocket depths. Since it is a larger "mouse," Becky decided to call it the Dental R.A.T. (actually Remote Access Terminal).

It is a wireless device, and can use its software or directly integrate with most practice-management systems' perio charts. In addition, it is a foot-controlled mouse to move the cursor around, as well as a method for right and left clicking with the foot. You do not have to be a step dancer to master this, but you can surely do charting by yourself. Also, it is hygienic since you do not touch a keyboard or mouse. Information is at www.dentalrat.com.

After several years of happy hygienist users, doctors started asking for a foot mouse to use with computers in the treatment rooms, but they did not need the charting buttons. To answer this call, late last year Becky introduced Boomer the Foot Mouse (shaped like a boomerang).

It has been "just what the doctor ordered," and is making a big splash in the dental marketplace. But then Becky had an epiphany: "Why limit this product to dentists?" There are people worldwide who have limited use of their hands and could benefit from this foot mouse. So she is exploring the marketplace and production options. Who knows? You might see her on television talking about this. Follow her progress and learn about the device at www.boomerthefootmouse.com.

There are other devices around and more in development. These include a digital probe from Orange Dental in Europe that will send the information via Bluetooth to software. There is also talk of an ultrasonic device that might be able to measure pockets by placing a device around the arch like a mouthguard.

The good news is that these products should keep the noise level down in the office by eliminating that cry for help.

Paul Feuerstein, DMD, installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978, teaching and writing about technology since then while practicing general dentistry in North Billerica, Mass. He maintains a website (www.computersindentistry.com), Facebook page (Paul-Feuerstein-DMD-Dental-Technology), is on Twitter (@drpaulf), and can be reached via email at [email protected].

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