Dental Tribune Canada

Dentistry’s future is digital: Don’t be left behind

By Peter M. Virga, DDS, Watertown Dental Health Group P.C.
October 21, 2014

I regretted one thing when our practice switched from film X-rays to digital X-rays: I wish we had done it sooner. To say that we gained return on our investment is an understatement. It has greatly improved our practice management, the patient experience and overall communication. Our investment has paid off exponentially. More importantly, it is a value-added service that patients may not have experienced previously at other dental offices.

There is simply no way to compare film-based X-rays to digital; it’s like comparing a Honda to a Porsche. If you’re considering the switch to digital for your practice, just take your foot off of the brake and make a leap of faith. Otherwise, you’re likely to be left behind.

Embracing digital

We built our 10,000-square-foot facility, in Watertown, N.Y., in 2000, and shortly after we grew tired of the dip tanks, darkroom and inferior quality of film X-rays. It was time for a change.

While we had computers in all 14 operatories, we had not been utilizing the digital aspect of our practice to its full capacity. We were three-quarters of the way there; we had the back-end systems in place, but were still using film.

We selected Sirona Dental’s intraoral sensors because they offered outstanding images, are easy to use and are durable. These qualities were top of mind for us, as we wanted technology that would enhance the patient experience and be easy for staff to use.

The transition was effortless. The sensors are truly intuitive — simply position and expose — and radiographs are instantly available and stored in dental records. I look back today and wonder why we hadn’t fully embraced digital sooner.

We transformed our darkroom into another operatory and hired a full-time hygienist. The positive effect all this has made on our practice is tremendous.

Helping it click for patients

Switching to digital radiography has truly enhanced our staff’s ability to communicate with patients.

We’re able to show them what’s specifically going on so they better understand our recommendations and options for treatment.

We link a computer monitor to an LCD 32-inch flat-screen TV, so patients can clearly and quickly see their teeth like they never have before. I’m able to enhance images’ contrast and brightness, and add color or other effects to highlight problem areas.

It’s my job to give patients as much information as possible so they feel empowered to make an informed decision for a course of action. Digital radiography helps me do that.

Another benefit of digital radiography is it helps significantly lower radiation exposure. You simply do not need to expose patients to previous levels of radiation to take an adequate image.

Don’t be left behind

For years, our practice had been using film-based X-rays with the typical darkroom setup. The time required to take and process X-rays was oppressive. The time savings digital radiography offers has paid back very quickly because time is not something you can buy; it is intangible.

It also comes down to being better able to share with patients what I’m seeing and educate them on treatment options. Ultimately, I want to help patients clarify their dental goals in a way that creates total understanding.

A digital platform, highlighted by Sirona’s digital intraoral sensors, helps me do that.

This article was published in Dental Tribune Canada Edition, Vol. 8, No. 3, May 2014 issue.

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