It is no secret that dental treatment has advanced dramatically since its inception, but even just in the last ten years, there has been a shift toward centering care around the patient’s experience. Due to this, dental care is garnering a better reputation as the patient focus helps soothe anxieties around treatment. New technology offers the best tools to help dental practitioners achieve better treatment efficiency and overall practice operations.
Navigating change is always hard, but keeping up with new technological advancements is essential for your dental practice to operate efficiently. The patients are at the heart of any practice, and keeping up with technological advancements can significantly enhance the dental experience for patients in your practice.
Advancements in Radiograph Imagery
The Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) technology has been continuously modernized in recent years to improve image quality and efficiency of scan times, decrease radiation exposure, and offer improved software. CBCT provides a 3D view of the teeth, bone and nerves with better resolution and contrast and can be tailored to the specific clinical need. One scan only takes 20-60 seconds and can generate multiple different angles and views to speed up the diagnosis and treatment planning processes. In addition to improvements in efficiency, the reduced radiation exposure through the cone-shaped X-ray makes it safer for the patient, reducing risks associated with long-term radiation exposure.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine, facilitated by video conferencing technology, rose as a solution to accessibility issues in healthcare. Tele-dentistry specifically has been able to capitalize on technology to make consultations and patient inquiries more accessible, especially for those in remote locations. The ability to consult patients without having them physically in the office, plus the option to share patient data, significantly reduce the barriers to accessing dental services, enhancing the dental experience. However, many dentists have still refrained from implementing telehealth services in their practice, even during the pandemic, citing a lack of interest (1). Telemedicine, in general, has been proven to be more cost effective, suggesting that it has long-term benefits for service providers and patients and is worth adopting alongside in-person consultations.
When it comes to restorative dentistry, one of the biggest pains for patients is having to wait for their restorations or models to come back from the lab before their appointment can take place. In the case of restorations such as crowns, these extended periods between diagnosis and treatment can even lead to further tooth deterioration and more aggravation for the patient. Luckily, chairside 3-D printing is beginning to address these exact concerns as printing software progresses to develop same-day production of materials, which has the potential to significantly reduce patient wait times (2). More and more dentists are looking to 3-D printing and its potential to create accurate models, prosthetics and restorations in office, instead of outsourcing. The cost-efficiency, speed and accuracy of these models will help close the gap between diagnosis and treatment for patients, which can significantly enhance their experience when undergoing more complex treatment plans.
Training staff in new technology, such as 3-D printing and new radiograph technology, is essential for maintaining health standards and optimal patient care in your practice. Implementing any new technology requires a thorough understanding of its operations, the development of a detailed training program and certification for all practitioners who will be operating it. When integrating new technology into your practice, use the manufacturing guidelines to advise best practices that uniquely suit the space it will operate in. Record standard procedures so they can be easily referenced when needed and be sure to evaluate and implement feedback to address any issues as they arise adequately.
Maintaining Health Standards
Maintaining health standards is vital to training dental staff on new 3D printing and radiography technologies. Existing health regulations will guide parameters for effective equipment hygiene, radiation safety, and patient comfort. As always, it’s important to instruct practitioners on using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), especially when radiation exposure is possible. Implement regular checks and maintenance to ensure the proper functioning of the technology and overall safe and compliant use of new technologies.
Ensuring Patient Confidentiality
Patient confidentiality is of utmost importance, as with any treatment, consultation, or procedure. Implementing tele-medicine in your practice while maintaining patient confidentiality can be a learning curve for both practitioners and patients, but it is necessary for maintaining trust between the patient and the dentist. When using telemedicine technology, it is vital to enforce the necessary security measures and ensure patients are informed about how their information will be kept confidential. Remember, practitioners must obtain informed consent to share patient information via the platform. Lastly, ensure you use a secure internet connection and videoconferencing software that reduces the risk of cybersecurity concerns.
The most significant benefit of implementing new technology in your practice is the ability to streamline the appointment process for patients, which significantly enhances the patient experience. The anxieties many experiences in relation to dental work are often around the unknowns and the inability to access timely care. The length of appointments and treatment processes associated with outdated dental technologies have contributed to this anxiety, where patients wait weeks between diagnosis and treatment and have extensive imaging taken just to diagnose issues, contributing to long wait times in the chair. By adopting updated technology, such as CBCT technology, 3-D printing, and tele-medicine, you will be better equipped to serve patients in the office and remotely more efficiently.
With constant innovation on the horizon, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to updating your dental practice. However, as a dental practitioner, it is your duty to keep in mind the best interests of your patients. When new technology presents an opportunity to enhance the patient’s experience, consider how your practice and patients can benefit. Not only do the patients benefit, but investments in technology can also help your practice operate more efficiently and cost-effectively. Remember to follow proper training and health regulations and keep patient confidentiality and their best interests at the core of it all as you move forward.
About the Author…
Dr. Shahrooz Yazdani is the CEO and Director of Yazdani Family Dentistry Kanata. Dr. Yazdani earned his DDS degree with Honours from the University of Toronto in 1998, then completed a 2-year residency in North Carolina. In 2001, he opened Yazdani Family Dentistry, and a few years later, he expanded and opened Costello Family Dentistry.
- Cheuk, R., Adeniyi, A., Farmer, J. et al. Teledentistry use during the COVID-19 pandemic: perceptions and practices of Ontario dentists. BMC Oral Health, 2023; 23(72). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12903-023-02772-y
- Paras A. The Future of Dentistry: How 3D printing is changing the industry. Institute of Digital Dentistry. April 30, 2023. https://instituteofdigitaldentistry.com/3d-printing/the-future-of-dentistry-how-3d-printing-is-changing-the-industry/.