Digital radiography and practice image

May 1, 2005
I want to spend this month's column talking about image.

Iwant to spend this month’s column talking about image. We’ll actually do this from a couple of perspectives. One is your image to the patient represented by what kind of dental office you have. The other is the response you receive from patients about digital radiography.

Let’s talk about the second kind of image first. Digital radiography has been used in dentistry for a few years, but many dentists are still questioning if it is for them. Whenever I evaluate dental products or technology for the long term, the test of time is very important. What do the users of digital radiography say about this technology now that they have some experience under their belts? You will find that user response is overwhelmingly positive. The ability to press the button on your X-ray machine and see the image within seconds on a screen is such a positive experience for both dentist and patient. There is no question that digital radiography has many advantages. It is easily a technology which will pay for itself over time.

As with anything else that is new, there is a learning curve with the system that you purchase. It just takes some time to work out the little kinks and learn how to successfully integrate this technology into your practice. When we first got into digital radiography a couple of months ago in our office, we had the staff set aside some time to exclusively work with it. By the time we began to use it with our patients, we were all well versed in what digital radiography could do. I can speak for my staff when I say that we were all quite surprised how easily and quickly we were able to integrate digital radiography into our daily practice. The learning curve wasn’t nearly as steep as we thought it would be.

Tablet PCs are a blessing when coupled with a digital X-ray system. The system we finally chose was the Lightyear system. Being able to take this small, versatile, mobile tablet PC from operatory to operatory to use on our patients is just a real pleasure. Lightyear has done an outstanding job in making the whole system very intuitive. Within a couple of hours, our assistants were able to take excellent radiographs and print pictures on plain copy paper to send to insurance companies. That is an important point. The fact that we don’t have to use expensive photographic paper or duplicating film will justify the cost of the digital radiography system very quickly.

By using Lightyear technology software to capture dental X-rays and video images, dental professionals gain considerable flexibility and control over their images. They may be stored at a fraction of the cost of hard copies. Image appearance such as size, color, brightness, and contrast may be adjusted. Some great helpful diagnostic tools, such as X-Detect and Colorwise, will display anatomical structures from a different viewpoint.

The streamlined user interface makes the software practical for the office staff to use. By keeping the number of screens to a minimum, it is extremely easy to use. The convenient menu buttons on the left side of the screen are intuitive, and all buttons on the screen are large enough to make selecting them on a tablet PC touch screen easy.

The patient response to digital radiography has been terrific. This is exactly what I’m talking about in terms of how digital radiography affects the image of your practice. How do patients view your office? Is your office different than the last office they went to? Do you project the image of being an up-to-date office or are you using technology that is decades old? Don’t get me wrong here. There is nothing wrong with using technology that has been successful for many years. However, as digital radiography becomes more and more commonplace and patients go from one office to another, how will they view your office if the last office they went to had digital radiography and you don’t?

In this world where esthetic dentistry is king and society is becoming more mobile, your office needs to be viewed as state-of-the-art. Digital radiography is one way to not only take outstanding radiographic images of your patients to help you diagnostically, but it also contributes to your image of being a 21st century dentist.

Dr. Louis Malcmacher is an international lecturer and author known for his comprehensive and entertaining style. An evaluator for Clinical Research Associates, Dr. Malcmacher is a consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. For close to two decades, Dr. Malcmacher has inspired his audiences to truly enjoy practicing dentistry by providing the knowledge necessary for excellent clinical and practice-management skills. His group dental practice has maintained a 45 percent overhead since 1988. For details about his speaking schedule, Dr. Malcmacher can be reached at (440) 892-1810 or via e-mail at [email protected].

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