In three words or less, what pops in your mind when you hear the term “Digital Dentistry?”
That was one of the questions we asked in a recent survey of practice owning dentists, and the responses we got were surprising. They ranged from, “expensive” to “complicated,” with a couple curse words and very few positive words in between. Given that a dental school education and practice experience involves countless hours of clinical development, with little time to keep up with the rapid pace of technology changes, the negative attitudes are understandable.
Our cover doc is no stranger to technology. Dr. Bryan Laskin has been a pioneer in digital dentistry his entire career. In this issue’s feature article, Dr. Laskin shares his thoughts about the evolving Digital Experience for patients and practitioners around the digital technology has already become pervasive in dentistry.
Dr. Laskin explores how digital technology is less about the gadgets, and more about the “digital workflow” that’s been growing all around you.
You use a digital workflow when you tap your credit card to pay for lunch instead of carrying cash. For that matter, you use it when you order lunch in an app or use the GPS map on your iPhone instead of a paper map to find that new restaurant. It is the thing that makes it possible to grab your phone and snap a quick pic of your kid scoring a goal instead of trying to remember your camera, batteries, film, and then getting them developed. And how about those Zoom video meetings we all discovered and mastered during the pandemic? Those are all forms of digital technology that have transformed our daily lives that we barely notice any longer.
The entrepreneur part of Dr. Laskin had him constantly thinking about ways to streamline the information flow in his own practice, primarily all the paper that he bought, managed, recorded, stored and disposed of in his daily operation, along with ways to see more patients in less time. Those ideas ultimately came to fruition in OperaDDS, a company he started e started to put his ideas into action. Although the idea of a “paperless” office was not novel, it exploded when COVID came along, and dentists, staff, patients, and government agencies (OSHA) started thinking about all the intake and checkout forms that changed hands every day in a dental office, and the magazines in the reception area, and equipment that held it all. Suddenly, there was a movement to declutter and disinfect, which is exactly what OperaDDS was already doing.
Then, practices began to realize there were more costs than just buying all that paper. There were hidden “soft” costs, such as the hours and hours of staff time handling it and filing it, along with the real estate costs associated with storing and archiving.
Better yet, the idea of Teledentistry that was “way out there” just a couple years ago suddenly kicked into overdrive, keeping up with Telemedicine, TelePsych and a whole host of other video-assisted diagnostic workflows. Dentists would dedicate a day to send an assistant to a nursing home and see dozens of pateints without leaving their office. Patients that needed further treatment were appointed, the cost, logistics and time were all more efficient using Tele-platforms such as OperaDDS.
So, in the past two years, iPads have replaced clipboards and paper forms, cloud storage has replaced filing cabinets, digital impression wands are rapidly replacing impression material (and the bags, boxes, and paper Rx), Teledentistry models are being implemented and perfected, and Dr. Laskin found himself on the receiving end of some handsome offers to buy OperaDDS.
But he hasn’t stopped there. Dr. Laskin has been an early advocate of VR (Virtual Reality) in the dental practice, having created yet another company, Digital Nitrous (DigitalNitrous.com). While he’s developing technology that can dramatically reduce patient anxiety, he is also exploring ways VR can actually assist dentists develop their skills in performing complicated procedures. Imaging getting real, hands-on clinical guidance from experts anywhere in the world without leaving your practice…or taking CE virtually by looking over the shoulder of the clinical masters. VR is not just for video games any longer, real organizations are doing real training and education with impressive results.
Again, digital dentistry is not just gadgets, it is how we use them as tools in our clinical and operational workflow, and Dr. Laskin is making headway there too. In 2020 he started ToothApps (Toothapps.com) to bring together all the tools and platforms a practice could need in one place…sort of a plug-and-play suite of apps practice owners can deploy based on their digital needs, rather than just installing what the software vendors decided you wanted.
The impressive part of this digital revolution and evolution is that it is being driven by a dentist. Dr. Laskin’s natural curiosity, drive for efficiencies, and courage to take risks and are powerful when combined with his clinical education and experience. Hopefully his article inspires a few more “dentalpreneurs” out there to look at technology differently, and to act on their ideas.
So, the next time you’re short on time and order lunch in an app, pay for it digitally, and watch a video that adds value to the skills you’ll be using in your practice, take Dr. Bryan Lasin’s lead and think about how you are already part of so many digital workflows and ways that you can develop to enhance the practice of dentistry and elevate the profession.
Who better than a dentist/entrepreneur?