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Smooth Operator

Jan. 1, 2005
One of my older patients used to work as a switchboard operator at a large company. When she looked over at my countertop and down near the floor she remarked, "I haven't seen wiring like that since I retired."

Paul Feuerstein, DMD

One of my older patients used to work as a switchboard operator at a large company. When she looked over at my countertop and down near the floor she remarked, "I haven't seen wiring like that since I retired." Indeed, it is reminiscent of Lily Tomlin's Ernestine sketches. The dazzling array of colored wires, twist ties and pony tail holders made me think a little about alternatives. My patients are fairly forgiving when they see all this because it reassures them that I am always adding a "latest" gizmo. Still, it is a bit overwhelming and certainly confusing to me and the staff.

Several of these wires are due to the array of USB devices that I use. I have often recommended the use of a counter-mounted USB hub. These are very small and typically have four inputs. The unit has to be connected to the computer via a wire that I have snaked down and below the counter. The hubs also require power, thus another wire going out the back. Those are only part of the problem. Each device has a three-foot or longer wire that has to connect to this hub. These include the digital radiograph sensor, USB intraoral camera input, memory card reader, camera docking station input, Palm/Treo uplink, memory stick input (for quick transfers or small backups) as well as the removable hard drive. These last two are not always hooked up, but there are times I will use the treatment room computer as one of my workstations. Now, just to confuse things, there are devices such as the Gendex Accucam FWT that use firewire inputs. This will also be the input of choice with a video camera as well as for monitoring some of the newer digital cameras. Did I mention that I use a six-foot fiber-optic cable attached to a light source for my headlight?

So, what should be done with all of these wires when in use and out of use? How do I stop them from getting all tangled up when I do pull them out for use? And, the greatest offender of all is the long wire attached to the digital sensor. How about a retractor like my old Electrolux vacuum cleaner? (Of course, the phosphor plates or the Schick wireless can take care of that one.)

I really don't want to rip my whole office apart and put in new cabinetry. The newer designs, as I have mentioned in this column before, have places and conduits for a lot of this. However, I have been looking for some ideas. I am making an appeal to the readers of this column to help me and others in solving the wire proliferation problem in a retrofit/upgrade situation. One interesting idea from my local Patterson installer was to make holes in the back wall of an existing cabinet drawer and run the wires out the back in the empty space behind the drawers. Then when I need one of these items, just pull out the drawer and the equipment is right there. I was thinking that a panel might be installed on a wall or cabinet back with USB and firewire inputs, much like a traditional electrical wall outlet. If made modular, these could be "punched out" and replaced with newer sockets as the technology progresses. If this exists, I haven't seen it. Please send me ideas and email photos to show what you are doing.

This all evaporates if you are building a new office. I just had the pleasure of visiting and speaking at Chris Kammer's new Center For Cosmetic Dentistry in Madison, Wisc. Some of you may know Chris' dad, Jack, the founder of the AACD. My only comment is "wow." This is a totally integrated state-of-the-art dental facility that also includes a lecture theater with total presentation capabilities and is connected to a health spa and facial/dermal treatment center. Plastic surgeons are soon to come. You can see this undertaking at Chris has put every high-tech gizmo imaginable in this office, all cleverly wired with an emphasis on patient comfort and amenities. All of the cables seemed to melt into the back of the units with many of the boxes hidden behind cabinet doors. Anyone other than I would have reported on the aesthetics, amenities, and visible features of the office while I spent my time looking behind cabinet doors and in closets marked "off limits." Maybe I should start rethinking that retrofit I am undertaking and "spring" for the new cabinets.

Dr. Paul Feuerstein installed one of dentistry's first computers in 1978. For more than 20 years, he has taught courses on technology throughout the country. He is a mainstay at technology sessions, including annual appearances at the Yankee Dental Congress, and he is an ADA Seminar series speaker. A general practitioner in North Billerica, Mass., since 1973, Dr. Feuerstein maintains a Web site ( and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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OpTime digital radiography. Soredex has introduced a phosphor plate digital radiography system that puts the sensor and scanner in the treatment room. Now you can use phosphor plates and see them on the screen in about five seconds without leaving. The unit processes then erases the film in the same cycle. For less than $11,000, an office can have near sensor speed digital radiography in any room with a scanner by using simple phosphor plates. The unique barrier system prevents scratching and cross contamination of the plates. More information is at

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Pacific Digital memory frame. Wouldn't it be something to have before and after photos in a picture frame in the waiting room or consult area? Not too novel except this frame is really a digital photo LCD display that can hold about 80 images while sitting on a counter in what appears to be a picture frame. The images can be easily programmed to display at various times, and even include music or voiceovers for each image. One model can be programmed via a wireless connection. It's also a great way to display pictures of the children, your trips and more, along with optional audio for the photos. This would be a great standalone adjunct even for offices that have patient education systems in place. For more information, go to

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Monitortrack. Monitortrack is a bracket-trolley system that allows the user to mount any VESA compatible LCD monitor to an existing track. Once the easy installation is completed, the monitor rolls up and down the track on its own trolley, totally independent of the light. Elegant in its appearance, Monitortrack avoids the use of articulating arms and other unattractive support mechanisms. Monitortrack is the common sense solution for those who have been searching for the ideal location to place a patient-viewable monitor. Additional information can be obtained at (469) 688-9855 or by visiting

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Surefire hard drive. The KANO Technologies Surefire 800-60GB hard drive connects via firewire (both 400 and 800) and USB (1.1 and 2.0). Using the former, no power supply is necessary and the transfer rates are amazing. This is the take-home backup for my office server as well as my laptop presentations. I bring this to lectures in the event that the laptop breaks down. Along with Windows XP, it just plugs in and is ready to go with a borrowed laptop. At a mere 10 oz. and 3 x 5 x -inch in size, portability is an understatement. The box includes all cables and a power supply (for USB) and is available from 20-100 GB. It also includes a copy of Dantz Retrospect Express Backup. Consider this unit for an external hard drive backup as well as a simple additional storage device for a network. More information is available at