Go digital in 2003!

Like so many of us, I like to make New Year's resolutions. They help me orient myself to the priorities of life and reflect on how well I have done in the last 12 months.

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD

Like so many of us, I like to make New Year's resolutions. They help me orient myself to the priorities of life and reflect on how well I have done in the last 12 months. Of course, there are the perennials: Lose weight; exercise more regularly; spend more time with the family! Sound familiar to you?

This year, I would like to challenge each of you to make some important New Year's resolutions for your dental practice and all of your patients. Why not place "going digital" at the top of your list of improvements for 2003? Stop using excuses U this technology can no longer be overlooked. It is something that has to become part of every one of our practices.

Patients expect us to have the latest digital technologies. They know that there have been major advances in dentistry. More and more, they are going to search out those who are keeping up with the times.

Here is my short and manageable checklist for those digital diagnostic technologies you need for your office in 2003. I have written extensively about all of them. All can be found in the archives at www.dentaleconomics. com:

Digital radiography: This has to be the cornerstone for any digital-diagnostic services in your practice. The benefits are obvious: 1) less radiation exposure to your patients; 2) instant on-screen images; 3) rapid and superior diagnoses; 4) image enhancement capabilities, such as magnification and contrast; 5) improved patient acceptance and education; 6) total elimination of darkroom, chemicals, and film; and 7) easy image-sharing with other dentists or third-party payers.

Digital radiography can have a huge impact on all areas of dentistry ... from your hygiene department to emergency appointments to endodontics, crown and bridge work, implant dentistry, and periodontics. The time saved by digital radiography can not only make our job of delivering quality dental care to our patients more efficient with less aggravation, but it also allows you to add an extra patient or two to your schedule. That means you will see a return on your investment past the money saved on purchasing film and developing chemicals.

Digital photography: Taking digital photographs of your patients and their teeth is another essential component of how you practice dentistry in 2003. Now, we can easily collect, store, enhance, study and share digital images. Take full-face photographs of your patients. Include them in your practice-management programs for patient identification. Create marketing initiatives such as "treatment-summary letters," "cavity-free clubs," or "first visit to the dentist" pictures.

Use full-face photographs as before and after records when you perform aesthetic work. Take close-up smile photographs. Use a cosmetic-software package to enhance or modify the images. Produce powerful case-presentation and treatment-planning letters and slide shows. Seeing images of their teeth can be highly motivating to your patients. Send copies to your laboratory technician so that shade selection can be enhanced, as well as the final aesthetic results. Share images with specialists for their use. Doing so makes communication easy and concise. Digital images also can be sent on to third-party payers for documentation of recommended treatment.

Over the months, I also have written about digital panoramic systems, digital microscopes, digital intraoral cameras, digital shade-taking devices, and high-quality ink jet printers. These are all awesome technologies that can help us deliver better and more complete treatment to our patients. And, after all, isn't this what you are truly searching for in your practice?

Add some of these new technologies to your practice and 2003 will be an even greater year for you with these additions!

Jeffrey B. Dalin, DDS, FACD, FAGD, FICD, practices general dentistry in St. Louis. He also is the editor of St. Louis Dentistry Magazine and spokesman and critical-issue-response-team chairman for the Greater St. Louis Dental Society. His address on the Internet is www.dfdasmiles.com. Contact him by email at jeff@dfdasmiles.com, by phone at (314) 567-5612, or by fax at (314) 567-9047.

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