Moving Beyond Hygiene and Fillings - Imaging Assessment to Improve Patient Outcomes


The practice of dentistry has expanded beyond hygiene and fillings – giving dentists new opportunities to improve patient care. Many leading-edge practices are investing in 3D CBCT technology to perform early screenings, leading to more positive patient outcomes and keeping bigger issues at bay.

Cone-beam computed tomography (CBCT) systems give dentists a way to open a dialogue with patients, guiding them to better oral health. “Keeping patients healthy is directly related to outcome-driven processes,” says Jay Barringer, an Equipment Sales Specialist for Henry Schein. “Safe screening allows dentists to find problems before the patient starts experiencing discomfort. This allows for more comprehensive care. A lot of patients have anxiety about the unknown. Today, dentists can show patients exactly what’s happening, provide several options, and help them understand the implications of any given outcome. By visualizing for patients what’s happening, they can help patients get in front of a problem. This way, they’re not addressing it in an emergency scenario.”

“The benefits of 3D imaging are all about communicating effectively with my patients and engaging them in their dental care,” said Dr. Bryan Couch of Complete Smiles Dentistry, a state-of-the-art dental practice in Coppell, Texas. “When they can see on the screen where the implant will go, they have a greater comfort factor in the process. This has changed the patient experience.”

The 3D systems also take the guesswork out of performing specialty treatments such as implants and orthodontics. CBCT systems can rotate around the patient’s head, capturing data using a low-radiation X-ray beam. The CBCT can quickly produce a three-dimensional image of the patient’s teeth, jaw, neck, as well as their ears, nose, and throat.

3D imaging assessment

A doctor reviews a patient's 3D imaging scans for her imaging assessment.

Using 3D dental imaging gives doctors greater confidence in treatments such as endodontic diagnosis and dental abnormalities. It also opens up the door to the placement of dental implants, which can represent tremendous growth opportunities. Instead of referring out diagnostic, implant, root canal, and cosmetic dentistry work to specialists, dentists can now perform this work in-house. This can increase profitability for the practice and add convenience for their patients. “3D imaging gives us very predictable results,” said Dr. Couch. “I can see exactly how an implant needs to be placed.”

In addition, more and more dentists are taking a holistic view of the patient, looking at the systemic link between dental care and overall health. Airway consultations are a prime example of this. Airway is a tremendous interest area in the dental field, which represents an intriguing merging of medical and dental. To that end, 3D imaging systems allow dentists to visualize a patient’s airway to identify if they have sleep-related issues like sleep apnea. They can then work in partnership with a sleep physician to identify the right treatment for the patient’s sleep disorder.

It’s important to do your due diligence before selecting a 3D dental imaging system.

That’s why many dentists turn to Henry Schein. The company works with dental practices to help identify how 3D will impact them now, and in the future, and helps select a system that will work best for your long-term goals.

Practice Imaging Assessment

Henry Schein equipment specialists encourage dental practices to consider several factors during a multi-step imaging assessment. This involves a discovery process and review of practical considerations.

  • Current practice. What is the foundation of your business today? What type of dentistry are you performing? What are your core competencies?

3D imaging unitThis is an exciting time for dentistry, with numerous opportunities to expand upon core competencies. “Technology is at the forefront of a lot of really successful practices,” said
Dr. Couch. “It’s equally important to hone your skills, no matter how long you’ve been practicing. Continuing education – combined with new technology – will help you improve the patient experience.”

  • Financial considerations. How much do you bill for each procedure and how much do you get reimbursed? What is your hourly production rate? What obstacles do you currently face with insurance reimbursements?

“3D imaging gives dentists a way to work more efficiently and maximize production,” said Dan Mulvey, an Equipment Sales Specialist for Henry Schein. “If you can do a scan in 12 seconds instead of an hour, that cost savings quickly adds up. But beyond that, technology like cone-beam helps practitioners promote better dentistry because they can show the patient exactly what’s happening.”

  • Growth opportunities. What is your five-year plan for your practice? How do you envision expanding your business?

The type of work you would like to perform will dictate the type of imaging machine that’s right for your practice. If you’re planning to perform dental implants, you need a system that shows the root structure, but if you’re expanding into oral surgery, you’ll want an imaging system that shows the patient’s entire head.

  • Technological infrastructure. What type of practice management software do you have now? What are your current digital workflows? Are you using any imaging software currently? Knowing the software/hardware foundation that’s in place is helpful for recommending the right imaging system to help bridge the gap. “You’ll want a system that allows for multiple configuration and integration options, so you’re not bound to one limited scenario,” said Barringer.”

It’s also essential to identify what IT support the practice has in place. This way you know there are resources in place to ensure the current infrastructure can support a new imaging system. Henry Schein has Computer Integration Technicians who will do a site check to evaluate the practice. For example, often video cards and processing systems need to be upgraded to handle the large images produced by 3D dental imaging systems.

  • Ability to adapt. Are you and your staff comfortable with change? If you could see more information with less radiation and find pathology that does not present itself in 2D, would you be open to changing the protocols you operate under now?

These are just some of the factors to be considered when conducting an imaging assessment. Grow your practice beyond hygiene and fillings by having a dialogue about your current and future goals. An equipment specialist will help with identifying the 3D imaging system that will serve your needs and allow you to add treatment procedures.

Contact Henry Schein for a personalized practice imaging assessment.