By Paul Perme, DDS
In so many aspects, 1956 was a very good year. It was the year videotape was first used on TV; gas cost 22 cents per gallon; and the minimum wage was $1.00. The Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World Series—and I graduated from the University of Missouri School of Dentistry. After serving two years in the Air Force, I began my dental career in Belton, Missouri. During my 55 years in dentistry, I have witnessed new materials and technologies that have improved the dentist’s ability to provide the best patient care. After a half century in business, I became associated with Dr. Terry Myers, who not only enjoys practicing dentistry but also teaches other dentists about new dental technology. He brought many new innovations to the practice, such as digital X-ray, intraoral cameras, and a CBCT scanner. I remember when he brought in the DEXIS system. Having become accustomed to traditional film for so many years, I had some degree of skepticism about my ability to adapt to digital X-ray, but it didn’t take much time before it became an integral part of my daily life.
From my firsthand experience, I know now that digital X-ray saves time and is easier to read. Back when I first started in dentistry, we had to dunk pieces of X-ray film in a tank, first through the developer, then through the fixer and then, hope that the X-ray came out all right. Finally, automatic processors were invented, but we all still had to wait a long time between exposing the film and developing and reading it. Even after all that time, the radiograph was often still too small for the patient to really understand what I was talking about.
Now, when I display the digital X-ray on the monitor, especially with new DEXIS Platinum technology, the clear images really accentuate the details. Digital images are so much easier for everyone to see and understand. After a short learning curve, I was able to adjust images to concentrate on specific areas—I can enlarge, zoom in, change contrast, draw lines to specific areas, just to name a few, with just the click of the mouse. Although the technology behind digital radiography is fascinating, I like to leave all of the complicated technology to the engineers and just take advantage of the good results of all of their hard work.
Collaborating with colleagues is so much easier. For instance, I just e-mailed an oral surgeon a digital photograph and X-ray, and I expect a call back from him in a few minutes. If I had to send X-rays by regular postal mail, three-to-four days might pass before we could collaborate, delaying treatment.
At the age of 77, I am pretty certain that not many in my age group are still practicing. I was very fortunate to become associated with Dr. Myers, a gem of a person to work with, and his well-trained staff. At first, I was just going to stay on for a year or two to introduce him to my patients. Now, I still enjoy working two days a week. Technology like digital X-ray has made it possible for me to get a better look at the patient’s dentition; to be confident about what I am seeing; and be able to collaborate with my trusted colleagues. Some patients I have treated for 40-to-50 years tell me I am not allowed to retire. With technology that makes my life easier, why should I? So, as long as I stay healthy, I’m still hanging in there.