Digital Dentistry's Bottom Line

Dr. Gary Kaye has been using digital dental technology in his practice for 15 years, from chairside CAD/CAM to 3D scanning and printing, and other technologies. Here, he describes how technology saves the practice significant time and costs, while also engaging patients so that they keep coming back for more.

We’ve made technology the centerpiece of our practice, and it’s been just phenomenal for us. Digital technology has improved the quality of our restorations as well as our level of competency, and ultimately, our bottom line. It is very humbling to look at the digital impression of a preparation enlarged on the screen with all its imperfections, things we may not have otherwise seen. It gives us the opportunity to adjust, modify, and refine while the patient is still in the chair, and then quickly scan another impression. There is no question that preparation quality improves. That’s a personal benefit as well as a patient benefit - a better-fitting restoration will last longer and we can expect better function in the mouth over the long term.

Practical Benefits

The first big savings is that, in general, going digital shortens appointment times. The dentist’s time is the most valuable commodity in terms of labor costs. Implementing digital dentistry frees you up to do other work.

Secondly, the cost of analog lab work is often passed on to the dentist. When you are using digital scans, labs often will charge less because their costs are reduced when they aren’t dealing with impressions and models. If you’re doing chairside CAD/CAM, your lab bill goes down even more, once you’ve amortized the cost of the equipment. There’s a very significant savings there.

We see similar benefits with implants: fewer appointments, less chairtime, better-fitting restorations, fewer remakes. It’s been shown that the average remake in nondigital offices is between 2%-5%; with digital, that goes down to a fraction of a percentage. Remakes can be a big expense for the dental office because we charge one fee no matter how many times we remake something.

With all specialty services, but perhaps especially in orthodontics, the digital advantage of no longer dealing with physical models extrapolates from buying materials to making them to storing them. Digital files don’t take up any space or degrade over time. If you need a duplicate retainer for a patient, there is no extra cost—the digital models are available and much easier to process.

Demystifying Dentistry for Patients

We feel there is a big benefit to the practice that patients are attracted to high technology, and are confident they’re getting better care. The use of digital technology also helps to demystify dentistry for patients and increases patient engagement. I don’t think there is any better way to get them to think about taking care of their teeth than showing them a scan of their actual mouth. When they can see their condition, we see more engagement. They come to their recalls and are more inclined to be compliant - and that’s always been a challenge.

I think it’s very exciting to be in this field right now. I love dentistry and technology. Being able to merge the two is very exciting. I can’t imagine practicing any other way.