ROI vs. actual cost

Walking through a dental trade show, one cannot help but notice the abundance of new technology available to treat and diagnose dental disease more effectively.

by Ron Kaminer, DDS

Walking through a dental trade show, one cannot help but notice the abundance of new technology available to treat and diagnose dental disease more effectively. While many of these high-tech tools may come with hefty price tags, dentists all too often forget to look at the return on investment vs. actual cost.

When considering laser technology, you need to understand the ROI associated with it. When you do, it becomes a win-win situation for both doctor and patient.

The Waterlase MD™ is an Er,Cr:YSGG (YSGG) hard- and soft-tissue laser capable of performing most dental procedures without local anesthesia. This allows multiple operative procedures in different quadrants to be completed on the same visit. Productivity increases since the patient’s entire treatment can be completed in fewer visits. Patients are thrilled that little to no local anesthetic is used and that their treatment is completed quickly and efficiently. This increase in patient satisfaction can easily translate to an increase in new-patient referrals.

Soft-tissue procedures using the YSGG laser can be performed routinely without anesthesia. Traditionally, a subgingival Class V restoration required packing cord, and despite this, there was still bleeding and recession upon completion of the restoration and removal of the cord. By using the Waterlase MD, you can remove the necessary amount of soft tissue painlessly, bill it as a gingivectomy, and then complete the composite in a clean, dry field. The advantage here is twofold. You boost your production by doing an additional procedure, plus you are now equipped to do better dentistry.

Many dentists tend to shy away from performing procedures such as crown lengthening, frenectomies, biopsies, and surgical extractions. These all become easier using a laser. Crown lengthening is one procedure routinely referred to the periodontist. The referring dentist usually must wait six to eight weeks for healing before taking the impression for the crown. When using the YSGG laser, you can often use a flapless crown-lengthening technique and take the impression for the crown the same day. This allows you to keep many procedures in-house and complete treatment in a shorter time.

Most dentists underestimate the need for frenectomies. Painful injections, profuse bleeding, and the need to place sutures are all reasons dentists report that they don’t do this procedure. An examination of the literature suggests that frenectomies are important procedures for a variety of reasons. Mandibular frenums are associated with gingival recession in the lower anterior region. Untreated, severe gingival defects can occur, and the integrity of the lower incisors can be compromised. Maxillary frenums can be associated with speech problems, and diastema closure between the maxillary central incisors can be complicated despite orthodontic treatment.

Utilizing the laser, a frenectomy can be a painless procedure without the need for sutures or local anesthetic. Patients not only heal well, they are astounded that an invasive surgical procedure can be performed without the need for an injection. Biopsies, gingival recontouring, soft-tissue curettage, and many other procedures can also be easily performed by the general dentist. By incorporating these types of procedures, you can increase production and add to your bottom line while at the same time know you are doing better dentistry.

No one would ever suggest buying a laser solely for the purpose of marketing, but patients now expect laser technology, whether it is in plastic surgery, ophthalmology, or dentistry. Patients perceive laser dentists as being more technologically advanced, and this can help open the door to acceptance of more complex treatment plans because the technology is present.

Finally, having a laser in the office "closes the back door of your practice." If you can routinely deliver painless, minimally invasive dentistry, patients have no need to ever leave the practice. Your practice should continue to grow through referrals.

So, the next time you stroll through the convention floor and become apprehensive when you hear the price tag of a hard- and soft-tissue laser, focus on the return on investment.

Ron Kaminer, DDS, practices in laser and comprehensive dentistry in Hewlett and Oceanside, N.Y. He has been using the Waterlase/Waterlase MD™ laser for more than seven years and is a national and international lecturer on lasers and minimally invasive dentistry. Dr. Kaminer also runs a laser training class, teaching new laser owners how to utilize the laser in their practice. He can be reached for comments or lecture engagements at whitertth@aol.com.

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