Tech Trends for 2012

With the low cost, acceptable quality, and clinical soft-tissue applications, Dr. Brad Guyton and Misty Absher Clark say 2012 might finally be the time to integrate laser technology into your practice.

By Dr. Brad Guyton and Misty Absher Clark

Lasers abound

Dental laser prices have dropped to all-time lows (with the portable pen-style Phillips NV Microlaser less than $6,000 and the DENTSPLY AMD Picasso Laser now less than $2,500.) For most dentists, this price drop - along with the quality of these lasers - merits consideration to purchase. While lasers in this price category are not typically appropriate for hard-tissue applications, they are appropriate for many soft-tissue applications and some may even merit consideration for "one in each op" at these price points.

The soft-tissue applications for cauterization, tissue recontouring, and frenectomies alone justify this price point. While the electrosurgical instrument may still have a place in the dental office, lasers are invading this once protected space, often with a cleaner result.

The electrosurgical instrument, while a staple in many practices, tends to have a charring effect on the tissue. Lasers do not. With the low cost, acceptable quality, and clinical soft-tissue applications, 2012 might finally be the time to consider integrating laser technology into your practice.

Digital scanning prevails, with or without a CAD/CAM machine

While the cost of Sirona Dental Systems' CEREC and D4D Technologies' E4D CAD/CAM units are still more than $100,000, most experts agree that the quality of these restorations is comparable to or sometimes better than the traditional methods for crown fabrication. What is really exciting in 2012 is that dentists who are not willing to invest in these two technologies can still get the benefits of digital dentistry, but without the $100,000-plus price tag.

During the past few years, we have seen the scanners offered at a considerable discount. (Cadent, 3M, Glidewell, and others are offered for $20,000 to $30,000.) With this scanning technology, you get the benefits of the digital scan without the big investment. By benefits, we mean no distortion from the impression or the stone setting, no shipping damage, and no temperature challenges. You prep and scan the tooth, send the digital impression to a lab or milling facility, and receive a digitally fabricated crown, often in less than two weeks.

Some labs offer free scanners to dentists who agree to send a minimum number of crowns per month to their labs. This business model allows dentists to get into digital scanning without the initial capital purchase.

In our opinion, this technology makes dentists better clinicians. When you use impression material, you look at a negative image of the final result. The digital image, on the other hand, shows what your crown preparation actually looks like and what areas might need improvement. It acts like your own internal proofreader.

You can identify undercuts or underprepared areas on the screen and remedy them before sending the impression. This not only enhances the quality of the final restoration, it also improves communication between the dentist and the lab if there is a concern. Digital dentistry is here and it is thriving!

Endo simplified

Endodontics has come a long way in the past decade. For those of you who did not like endo in dental school, it may be time to reconsider. While rotary endodontics changed the procedure for the better in the 1990s, the technology has become even simpler today. While we see manufacturers such as DENTSPLY Tulsa and Axis|SybronEndo reduce the number of files needed to perform routine NSRCT, the concept of single-use files has finally become a practical reality.

It has been reported that the NHS in the U.K. is now mandating the rule of single-use only endo files. This trend is apt to catch on and become the standard of care over time. With some of the new technology from manufacturers, you can complete a simple root canal with a glide path file, then a single rotary file, and finally a corresponding fitted obturator. With products such as GuttaCore, the re-treat problems with heated obturator carriers may soon become a thing of the past. The gutta percha core facilitates the possible re-treat down the road.

Finally, there are new irrigants entering the market that disinfect and lubricate the canal and act as a great adjunct to traditional sodium hypochlorite. With single-use files, fewer files, fitted gutta percha core carriers, and new irrigants, this is a great time for general practitioners to reconsider introducing endodontics into their procedural treatment mix.

Facebook dealings

Encouraging patients to obtain deals, redeem coupons, and check in at a dental practice while they are logged into their Facebook accounts is becoming a more strategic way for dentists to increase awareness of their practices. More dental professionals are discovering how this electronic word-of-mouth mentality helps nurture patient loyalty by engaging them through the check-in feature and portraying positive, personalized elements of the dental team on Facebook. Patient education takes place more naturally and in a timely manner in this arena.

iWhat?

The world has gone digital quickly, and dentists who have not caught on to the new lingo and rapidly advancing tools are being left behind by teams using the iPad and Dentrix eServices to complete patient forms. Patients often use iPads to complete their patient work, such as demographic information, smile evaluations, and health histories. The ePaperwork can, at the touch of a button, be submitted and populated into practice management software such as the Dentrix database.

Brad Guyton, DDS, MBA, MPH, serves as chief operating officer at Jameson Management, a team of some 40 dental practice-management advisors, including Vice President of Creative Services Misty Absher Clark. Jameson, founded by Dr. John and Cathy Jameson, helps dentists increase productivity and profitability while decreasing stress in their profession. Jameson advisors offer in-office dental consulting, marketing services, and online education such as their recently launched Facebook University. To register for a free complimentary webinar or strategic planning or to call for a practice visit, go to www.JamesonManagement.com. Dr. Guyton and Clark may be reached at info@JamesonManagement.com.

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