Creating a Productive Digital Dental Practice

Dentrix practice management system screenshot on computer

Over the past seven years, digital technologies have been flooding the dental profession. Glittering excitement and endless promises from manufacturers have made it confusing for the dental professional to make a decision about which product to choose. Although many deliver what they claim, making those products work productively and efficiently is another story.

Basic Planning

Digital dental techniques and software can save time and money and enhance the patient experience. Start with office software solutions. Within any dental office, the workflow must function in a seamless way to coordinate and actually help the staff and doctor perform at their best, always keeping the patient’s experience as the top priority. Once the systems are in place, the use of iPad digital check-in (Dentrix G6), digital radiography (DEXIS), CBCT Scan (Planmeca ProMax), and a digital impression for diagnostics (Planmeca PlanScan) is the start of the workflow and begins the patient experience. All of the operatories should have digital education software, requiring a 40–50 inch high-definition screen. It can also be used for playing DVDs, nature shows, sporting events, and children’s shows. This is a must if you are going to go digital in 2017.

Planmeca CAD/CAM system

Delivering Care

Patients are being treated with some form of restorative, periodontal, or orthodontic care on a daily basis. The front desk must communicate to the assistants in the treatment rooms about procedures, appointment times, lab prescriptions, and more. It must be easy and consistent if the digital workflow is to be managed correctly. Having these systems in place before the addition of scanners, lab software, and smile design is critical. Most offices buy a digital intraoral scanner but use it as a stand-alone software, never connecting it to the front desk software. This is a typical mistake that separates the files and cuts off the workflow. Any piece of equipment must be integrated so all parties have access to the files and can show photographs of results and before and after photos at check-out. An integrated workflow from back to front expedites the patient flow through the office and communication between staff members. This is difficult to do, but pays off in saving time while allowing for efficiency and creating a “wow” experience.

Digital technologies with an iPad

Intraoral Scanners

Here’s the truth! They all work! We have the Planmeca PlanScan, the 3M True Definition, and the 3Shape TRIOS scanner. We use all of them for restorations, veneers, full-arch scans, and implant scans as well as diagnostics, smile design, and orthodontics. The scanning capabilities are amazing, but missing in most cases is back-up support and laboratories that are experts in this technology. This is a critical step to continue the workflow from the operatory to the front desk, to the lab and then back. Doing this within 4–7 days is a must in a big city like New York. If we can deliver this kind of care and quality here in New York, the Henry Schein team can deliver it anywhere.

Patient Experience

Scanning patients and demonstrating that we are a completely digital office is very important. With any procedure we perform, we show the patient visually, on screen, that we are performing at a high level of accuracy and remotely sending it to our top laboratories. Another benefit to the patient experience is milling or printing the crowns and working models and delivering them in a one-visit appointment, saving both the dentist and the patient time. Milling and printing would be added to a practice based on the availability of the space.

Backup To Cloud Server

Planmeca CBCTWith so much patient data, backup files and servers must be updated to service the digital software. Without proper backup, the dangers of losing files is too risky. The office server should be backed up to a cloud-based server, which is the most secure and safest option.

The Ideal Visit

In an ideal digital dental office, a patient walks in and has technology work for them. We expedite patients’ treatment plans, dental procedures, and overall care. There is no longer a fear of impression material, cone beam scan, unnecessary appointments, and delays in lab work. Laser technology minimizes pain on soft- tissue levels.

All-inclusive digital dental office benefits include:

  • Comprehensively designing a digital smile design treatment plan
  • Smiling preview before treatment
  • Digital treatment sequence
  • Digital diagnostic scan for every patient
  • Minimizing lab turn around
  • Minimize patient chair time
  • Improving communication through digital technologies
  • Digital photography ties into the office software
  • Digitally printed or milled models

Efficiency, accuracy, and consistency are the results of a properly designed digital office. The hardware is supported by the digital software and the office management software serves as the central hub for all of the technologies.

Welcome to the digital world of dentistry…the future is here!

Originally published in Sidekick Magazine.

About the Author: Dr. Dean C. Vafiadis received his dental degree and prosthodontic specialty training at the New York University College of Dentistry. He is currently the Director of the Full-Mouth Rehabilitation CE course at NYU. He is an Associate Professor of Prosthodontics at NYU College of Dentistry. He lectures nationally and abroad for the NYU Continuing Education Department. Dr. Vafiadis is published and lectures on various topics such as aesthetics, implant designs, computer restorations, ceramic materials, and occlusion. He is the founder of the New York Smile Institute in NY. It is an educational center, full-service laboratory, and learning facility as well as a private practice location for a multi-specialty practice for implant and aesthetic dentistry. Currently, he is lecturing for the Continuing Education program at NYUCD for Dental Districts in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. His patient base includes many celebrities; sports figures; Fortune 500 company executives; producers, directors, and writers in the film industry; executives in the fashion world; and world renowned chefs and restaurateurs. He maintains his private practice in the Valentino Building near Rockefeller Center. Dr. Vafiadis’ primary professional mission is to educate, publish, and invent new technologies that will help change the dental profession and patients’ lives.