Use it or lose it

Nov. 1, 2008
I had the opportunity to speak at my own state's meeting, the Ohio Dental Association meeting, this past September.

by Louis Malcmacher, DDS, MAGD

For more on this topic, go to and search using the following key words: new technology, Dr. Louis Malcmacher, laser dentistry, Section 179.

I had the opportunity to speak at my own state's meeting, the Ohio Dental Association meeting, this past September. It was a real pleasure to work with Suzanne Payne, the director of meetings for the Ohio Dental Association, and her great team. This meeting was packed with dental professionals from all over the state, as well as lots of exhibits on the newest technology in dentistry.

I've written about new technology before, but I would like to look at it from a different aspect in this article. Every dentist I know would love to have every piece of new technology. There's no question that we dentists love toys, and the bigger and better the technology, the more we want it.

The challenge here is that each new technology comes with a price tag. How do you determine where and when you will spend your technology dollars? Unless you have about a million dollars lying around, you have to make some informed and careful choices as to where you will spend your dollars, and you need to build your practice from there.

Here are some guidelines that we use in our practice:

1. Is this new technology going to help me in my everyday dentistry?

If the new technology will not be in your hands many times per day, then you're not going to get the best use of that technology. The new technology must become a vital part of your practice immediately in order for you to have any kind of return on investment.

2. Does this new technology have a practice management component?

This is an aspect most dentists don't often think about. Any new technology should have your patients talking to other patients about your practice. When new technology wows your patients, it's free advertising and great marketing for your practice as they spread the word that you now do things faster, easier, and better than ever before.

3. Will this new technology make my office run more efficiently?

Many times with new technology, there may be glitches that actually change the way you practice and make you less efficient than you were before. New technologies should be complementary to your practice and not dramatically change the flow of your day. Then they will end up costing you much more than the price tag associated with the new technology.

Here are some examples of technologies we invested in that have paid off tremendously. Digital radiography is at the top of most dentists' lists. We recently acquired a Dr. Suni Plus System. Suni has just come out with the thinnest, most comfortable sensor ever developed, and their software is outstanding. Add to that a SuniCam intraoral camera and you have one of the most cost effective digital X–ray systems on the market. The software is very intuitive, our team members learned it very quickly, and it now saves us time and is a crucial part of our office.

Now is certainly the time to take a look at laser dentistry. Once you learn how to use it, you can comfortably perform most of your operative dentistry and many other procedures without giving the patient anesthesia. Does that fit the bill from a practice management aspect? You bet; nothing else even comes close. We now have two Waterlase C100s and two Waterlase MDs (both by Biolase), and we could not imagine practicing without them. It's made us much more efficient and differentiated our practice more than anything else in recent history.

Yes, now is the time to look at new technology, especially with Section 179 in the tax code that allows Uncle Sam to help pay for some of these investments in your practice. Just like you tell your patients to use their benefits before the end of the year, you need to buy some equipment before the end of 2008 to qualify. This is money in your pocket. By the way, don't feel bad about Uncle Sam helping you — with all the bailouts in the financial industry, I'd say that's the least they can do for the dental industry!

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist and internationally known lecturer, author, and dental consultant known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinicians Reports, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. Contact him at (440) 892–1810 or e–mail [email protected]. His Web site is where you can find information about his lecture schedule, audio CDs, download his resource list, and sign up for a free monthly e–newsletter.

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