Roger P. Levin, DDS, MBA
I recently read an editorial by Dr. Ronald Goldstein, one of the acknowledged leaders in esthetic dentistry and Dr. David Garber, co-editor of the Journal of Esthetic Dentistry. The editorial was titled, "High Technology-The Time Is Now!" The editorial highlighted the fact that high technology had certainly arrived in dentistry and that it was important that dental practices begin to take advantage of what technology offers to enhance both quality and image.
I completely agree with Drs. Goldstein and Garber. However, I would suggest that the concept move one step further and add that it is always the right time to implement high-technology equipment or systems into the dental practice. The most current technology will be only as current as today.
Technology changes so quickly that one barely has time to adjust to one innovation before a modification is on the scene. The pace of technological transformation is so rapid that if we do not find a way to anticipate the future, we will be unable to recognize what we need to do today.
When we think about the incredible advances in medicine, such as the discovery of antibiotics, the polio vaccine and heart by-pass surgery, we recognize these events as major world changing discoveries. Before their introduction, the options were severely limited.
Creating the High-Tech Practice
The same is true for dentistry. Before the high-speed drill, we worked differently. Before composites, we worked differently. And before office computers, we worked differently.
During the last few years, there has been a virtual revolution in the way we operate dental practices. The message I have been bringing to my seminars is that we are no longer in the business of dentistry. We are in the business of education. A smart business owner is always asking the question, "What business am I in?" When we find that the answer has changed, we need to make significant alterations in how we run our businesses or, we will find ourselves with a declining customer base. When the question is asked relative to dentistry, we realize that dentistry no longer is the primary specific that we offer. I contend that what we offer is education.
The more we educate our patients, the more treatment options they will understand and accept.
Look at the marriage of high technology and education. Who would have ever believed that people would spend anywhere from $8,000 - $11,000 (today`s basic systems) on an intraoral camera. It does not diagnose anything. It does not treat anything. All it does is educate!
The beauty of the technology offered by the intraoral camera, is that it helps dentists who may not be effective communicators inform patients about their dental problems in a dramatic and graphic presentation. The same patients who might have been reluctant to accept treatment from these dentists because they did not understand it, now are able to accept the treatment plan and understand the rationale for having it performed.
When you add that to the realization that the practice of the future will need to offer a higher percentage of elective services, we can identify a high-technology tool that increases patient acceptance for elective dentistry. I have seen this happen repeatedly with clients and it does make a tremendous difference.
The intraoral camera has done an outstanding job of enhancing what I consider to be our main business today-education. As I reiterate in The Levin Group seminars, "If you sell the education, you will get to do more of the dentistry." Practices that are focused on educating patients and are giving them the opportunity to be knowledgeable about accepting dentistry today or in the future are busy and will continue to be busy. Those practices that are still trying to practice 1970 dentistry in the middle of the 1990s are finding the challenges of managed care and the competition to be extensive. Nothing highlights the need to bring technology into your practice better than the effectual use of the intraoral camera.
Practitioners should also be looking at high efficiency technology that can reduce overhead and increase case acceptance such as computerized probes, more enhanced practice-management computer systems, etc. There is a whole new world opening up about which I will write more extensively. The concept is called Minimal Invasive Dentistry. This involves making use of composites and the new Polymer glasses that enable us to reduce teeth less than ever before and assures the appreciation of our patients. Technology and dentistry are inseparable; they interact with each another at all times. We need to do everything possibly to ensure that our practices are technologically advanced, both to enrich the quality of care we offer and the image of the practice. Remember, technology has never been more advanced in dentistry than it is today and it will be even more advanced tomorrow.
Dr. Roger Levin is founder and president of The Levin Group, a national, dental-management and marketing-consulting firm. He can be reached at 410-486-1089.