Implementing new dental technologies

- Notes from an Early Adopter.

- Notes from an Early Adopter.

I’m a wet-fingered dentist who began practicing in 1982 in Atlanta. For the past 22 years I’ve worked hard, and that dedication and devotion to dentistry has helped me build a very successful practice.

I attribute much of that success to my tendency of being an early adopter of new technologies. I’ve always been a fan of new and exciting dental tools and technologies, but not every technology I’ve implemented into my practice has worked out. A lot of the high-tech products I’ve implemented over the years were developed or manufactured by small mom and pop companies - not necessarily a bad thing, but without the right financial backing and management, most don’t make it past their second or third birthdays. Then you’re stuck with a product that has no support, no serviceability, and no third-party support because no one wants to commit time and money to someone else’s unwanted stepchild. When you decide to try a newly launched product that hasn’t quite hit the mainstream, you’re taking a risk. Nevertheless, those that worked out became incredibly successful - not just for me, but also for tens of thousands of dentists worldwide.

For me, one of those great successes has been the CEREC system. I followed chairside CAD/CAM technology in the dental trade journals for years. Then I spoke with a colleague who bought a chairside CAD/CAM system and he told me it was phenomenal. I believed him, but I wanted to be sure it was right for me and the way I practice. So I visited his office a couple of times and shadowed him as he treated patients who would receive these machined, ceramic restorations. At the time, the 3D software had not yet been released - he was using 2D software. Designing a restoration was a bit cumbersome back then because you had to learn to view and “draw” tooth anatomy in virtual slices, but the final result really got me excited. The margins were perfect, and the fit of the inlays and crowns were impeccable.

Sirona had been developing its CAD/CAM technology since 1985 and was constantly improving it with thoroughly tested upgrades. My decision to go with it was based on its long-term product development - further validated by the release of CEREC 3D. I placed my order without hesitation. It was one of my best decisions, and the best clinical addition to my practice in 22 years. The system has been positive in every aspect: return on investment, patient acceptance, profitability, productivity, efficiency, and of course, restoration quality.

Today’s dental patient is more educated, health-conscious, beauty-conscious, and time-impaired than ever before. They don’t want dark amalgam fillings or gold teeth. They desire tooth-colored restorations that match their existing natural dentitions.

Direct composite resins haven’t helped me meet the long-term needs of my patients who need large, multi-surface restorations. I don’t get warm fuzzies when I see a worn composite on recall and have to treat it again five to seven years later. So when chairside machinable ceramics became available with a predictable, easy-to-attain result using 3D software, patient service was greatly elevated, and it transformed my practice like no other new technology. The 3D software provides complete control over the restoration, the contacts, embrasures, contours, cusp placement, and occlusion. The virtual articulating paper is amazing - you see how the restoration will interact with opposing dentition before it is placed in the mouth.

No matter which technology you decide to implement into your practice - digital radiography, chairside restorations, computerized anesthetic injection systems, or L.E.D. curing lights - the key question to ask is: Why am I doing this? To answer this question, you must determine all your motivating factors. If the substance of your answers is “To elevate my practice and my dentistry to a higher level of service and satisfaction for my patients,” or “To help broaden my capabilities, add to my skills, and revitalize my passion for what I do,” then you’re in the right frame of mind to successfully reach your goals.

New technologies are not something to ignore or write off as passing fads. They may not be perfect - or yet perfected - when they first arrive to market, so you may want to wait a bit before buying. Given time and plenty of experience in clinical trials and practical applications, you can be certain that today’s too-good-to-be-true technologies will eventually become the standards of tomorrow.

Dr. Joel Benk is a nationally recognized teacher in the CEREC 3D method, and has lectured on high-tech integration, machinable ceramic dentistry, and practice management. Dr. Benk is a former member of the faculty at Emory University Dental School. He has earned a fellowship in implant dentistry, and is a certified International and Patterson trainer in the CEREC 3D method. Dr. Benk has a private practice in Atlanta. He can be reached at (404) 872-7755 or e-mail jrbenkdds@earthlink.net.

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