The purpose of this article is to examine the concept of digital dentistry, its advantages and limitations, and make statements and observations on specific areas of digital dentistry based on research, direct personal experience, and communication with dental manufacturers and clinicians worldwide. It is intended to provide a practical view of digital dentistry, a stimulus for greater adoption of the areas that are proven, and faster integration of new technologies from which our profession can benefit. Let us dive into some of the procedures and things that make the digital approach favorable.
What is exactly digital dentistry?
While the term digital serves the purpose of describing a very wide set of things, in this case, it refers to the broad scope of equipment that uses digital or components that are controlled by a computer, as opposed to those that have only electrical components, and mechanical ones. The broadest idea that is associated with digital dentistry is the computer aided design and computer aided manufacturing, but, there are more benefits to the digital approach.
To be considered a clear advantage, the area of digital dentistry must include three things:
- Improved efficiency — both cost and time
- Improved accuracy in comparison to previous methods
- A high level of predictability of outcomes
Some areas of digital dentistry lack one or more of these characteristics and could easily be improved by adopting or integrating technology from other industries, or eliminating attempts to improve older, outdated technology and implementing newer, disruptive technology.
The transition to the digital world:
Dentists who have not yet adopted this prerequisite for digital dentistry should do so now! Daily advances and improved software adapted from other industries allow this technology to be affordable, attain the fastest adoption rate, and offer a high return on investment. Current and highly effective systems include Eagle soft (Patterson), Dentrix (Schein), Practice Works (Care stream Dental), and Web-based software such as Curve Dental.
Digital patient education is growing rapidly. The future in this area will reveal technologies and methods of communication already available in other industries, such as voice-activated and/or touch-screen computer and software instruction, live video and rapid recall of photos and educational components, 3-D video presentation with and without monitors or tablets, and off-site live consultation and education.
The future is here to be embraced:
Digital dentistry is more than just hype. When properly implemented and fully educated, return on investment can be excellent, increased joy in practicing dentistry can be experienced, and better care for your patients can be delivered. The future of dentistry is now. Waiting another 10 years to adopt or integrate these new areas of dentistry will leave you decades behind. Decide which areas will best augment your practice, make informed decisions regarding your choice of product/technology, obtain education and training, and have fun!