Managing the accelerating advancements of technology in the modern practice

The implementation of modern dental practice technologies is accelerating dentistry, but no implementation should be rushed. Here are some questions you should carefully consider before, during, and after adding a new technology to your practice.

More and more, modern practices find themselves integrating new and evolving technologies into the dental ecosystem, building and supporting an entirely new infrastructure. With this change comes challenges of adopting these new fundamentals. Each new advancement builds upon its predecessors, forcing us to constantly adapt new workflows, materials, and ideas to better serve our patients.

It is important to consider how our practices handle these rapid advancements. We want the integrations to be seamless and for our teams to be open and agile enough to handle the sometimes-overwhelming pace of these technologies. What are some of these advancements? How could they interact with our practices? What can we do to keep pace while ensuring a successful adoption? These are elements that need to be considered, and we can begin by taking a broad look at what some of these advancements entail.

Chairside CAD/CAM technology has been around for quite some time, but frequent advances in the scanning technology, design software, and materials have made this more accessible and affordable to practitioners.

Intraoral scanners, which are reasonably easy to use as the design software has become more intuitive, are another option. Improvements in available materials have made the outcomes a lot more predictable. Simulation software that allows the dentist and patient to view anticipated posttreatment setups aids in treatment planning and patient education. 3-D printers have become ubiquitous in the modern dental laboratory. The advancements in this technology have led to more manageable and affordable office-based printers. This allows for rapid chairside printing of models and surgical stents.

Table 1: Questions to consider when adopting a technology

Before

Does the technology align to my practice’s mission and values?

What would the technology provide for our patients and our team?

Where and when would I use the technology within my existing workflow?

How does it align with other technologies that I use?

How would I communicate the technology to my patients?

Is my team prepared for the new technology?

How does the technology fit within my business model?

During

Where do I access training and maintenance for the technology?

How do I establish related communications with sales reps, labs, and patients?

How do I motivate my team to adopt the technology?

How do I maintain a cohesive team alignment and attitude toward the technology?

How do I prevent and remedy any issues during integration?

After

How do I ensure my team fully utilizes the technology?

How do I maintain and extend the life of the technology?

How do I approach related future technologies?

How do I handle technologies at the end of their useful life?

Digital technology is allowing us to move from the labor-intensive fabrication of full dentures toward a digital solution. Digital dentures streamline the entire process, allowing for future patient visits and better solutions.

The decision to adopt any of these technologies—as I have stated throughout other columns—is never worth rushing. This is doubly so as they continue to evolve, presenting us with countless options, alternatives, and possibilities to enhance virtually every aspect of our practices. It can all seem overwhelming, particularly when we have to choose which advancements to pursue and which to avoid. While they can all have a positive impact on our practices, our workflows, and the care we provide to our patients, choosing which technologies to adopt is a difficult decision.

The sidebar lists some of the questions that should be considered before, during, and after adopting one of these many accelerating technologies. Considering each of these variables helps us manage the ever-evolving landscape of modern dentistry, and while I’ll be covering many of these topics in future columns, it is equally important to view them in a broad scope.

Gary Kaye, DDS, FAGD, founder of the New York Center for Digital Dentistry, has practiced comprehensive dentistry in New York City since 1993. He graduated from Columbia University of Dental Medicine in 1993 where he received awards in endodontics, prosthodontics, and geriatric dentistry. Dr. Kaye consults with other dentists and dental manufacturers and lectures on topics including ceramics, occlusion, and digital dentistry. He is on the guest faculty of Planmeca University in Dallas, Texas.

Have a question for Dr. Kaye?

Email him at drgarykaye@nycdd.org.

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