The Benefits of Adopting Digital Technology
Digital scanners offer more than just a replacement for impression materials
The world of digital dentistry continues to evolve at a rapid pace; however, the majority of dentists have been hesitant to embrace this technology. The reasons for this are varied and include the costs, issues with implementation, potential disruptions in workflow, and worry that the technology will become outdated too quickly. Since I first replaced my conventional x-ray film with digital sensors almost 16 years ago, I've adopted a variety of digital technologies in my practice. The number of sensors being employed now is significantly higher than back then, but it is amazing how many dentists are still trying to diagnose from small 2-inch radiographs that are definitely much harder to see than an image blown up on a 15-inch monitor. Using digital technology provides benefits for our patients and practices that far exceed the cost of the technology.
Currently, one debate regarding digital technology surrounds the use of digital scanners for restorative treatment. During the past 3 decades, the technology has significantly improved. Although the cost of these devices may still seem higher than what it should be to some dentists, they are certainly more affordable now than ever before. The problem is that most dentists are only looking at the cost in terms of replacing their impression materials without assessing the value of the other tangible benefits provided by digital scanners. It can be hard to leave your comfort zone; I can't argue that. But isn't it possible that, once you become acclimated, the adoption of digital technology could land you in a whole new comfort zone that might work even better for you?
Digital scanners have become much easier to implement because their learning curves are shallower than ever before. It doesn't take nearly as long to train, so the disruption to the workflow of your practice is lessened. The original systems were also packaged with in-office milling technology, which meant that those who really weren't interested in doing their own lab work were forced to buy unnecessary equipment. Now, standalone scanners are available that provide dentists with the opportunity to upgrade to a complete system in the future if they become interested and the growth of their practice warrants it. This provides dentists with the opportunity to incorporate the technology at their own pace without a huge initial financial outlay. Speaking from experience, I have acquired three scanners, a mill, and a model printer and still maintain great relationships with my laboratories—it can be done.
It's important to understand that there are many more benefits to the adoption of digital scanners than simply replacing impression materials. They reduce overall treatment time, increase the accuracy of restorations, and improve communication with your laboratory and interdisciplinary team. Conventional impressions pose many more challenges for the practitioner as well as the laboratory staff.
Digital files can be shared though secure portals, which facilitates easier communication for diagnosis and treatment planning and eliminates the need to use couriers or drive to the specialist's office. Furthermore, we can now enhance a patient's health record by creating a digital record of their mouths to accompany x-ray images, computed tomography scans, periodontal charting, and photographs.
Now, when a patient asks if there have been any changes since his or her last visit, we can show the changes on a screen rather than trying to explain. Digital technology will always continue to evolve, but it has never been a better time to adopt than it is right now.
About the Author
Paresh Shah, DMD, MS, maintains a private practice in Winnipeg, Manitoba.