The business case for digital dentistry
Terry Patuzzo considers the benefits that digital dentistry can bring to a practice.
A dental practice is no different to any other business that needs to keep pace with technology in order to deliver best outcomes and keep customers coming back.
A knowledgeable and experienced practice owner will always have one eye on the future, and the most successful look to make timely investments that will:
- Improve performance
- Reduce costs
- Deliver a return on investment
- Future-proof the business.
This might seem like a tall order, but evidence shows that digital dentistry delivers on all four of these requirements.
Digital imaging equipment provides better quality representations of the oral anatomy than traditional methods. High-resolution, full-colour images allow you to see in greater detail, aiding diagnosis and treatment planning, enabling laboratories to deliver more accurate restorations, which results in fewer remakes.
Digital software streamlines communication with both patient and laboratory. Patients can understand their diagnosis and understand the treatment plan more easily when shown life-like digital images. Digital communication channels with the laboratory enable real-time collaboration via computer-aided design (CAD) software and improve collaboration between clinician and technician resulting in greater accuracy and faster turnaround times.
The addition of a chairside milling unit to your treatment centre makes same-day dentistry a reality, by allowing the fitting of restorations in a single visit. The benefits of this for time-poor patients is undeniable, as is the additional revenue generated by this technique.
Improved performance always has a positive effect on the bottom line. Fewer and shorter appointments reduce costs, and creates space for more appointments – a double opportunity to boost practice revenue.
The ongoing costs associated with digital imaging are less than with traditional methods as impression materials and X-ray films are a thing of the past and physical resources are freed up from the management and storage of physical models and records. Postage and delivery costs are also reduced as these are replaced by digital communication.
Deliver a return on investment
Although some digital equipment requires an initial financial outlay, a new piece of equipment does not have to last forever in order to justify the investment – it just has to pay for itself by generating more revenue than was originally spent.
For instance, with a chairside milling unit, a simple calculation of the number of restorations milled in-house per month, multiplied by the fee charged per restoration, will give an indication of how long it will take you to repay the cost of the equipment. Once paid for, the additional revenue needs only cover the ongoing costs of materials and maintenance fees.
Future-proof the business
The most recent intraoral scanners and digital imaging systems already deliver superb quality and detail through their powerful cameras, so upgrades are more likely to come in the form of software updates, offering even more features to delve deeper into your patient’s dentition and create better treatment solutions.
To be future-proof, a business needs to be agile and responsive to the changing needs of patients and laboratory partners. Most digital equipment is now on an ‘open platform’ and therefore able to integrate with digital equipment from other manufacturers. This provides flexibility to work with any laboratory and choose the equipment you want based on the features that are most important to you.
It can be prudent to purchase all your digital equipment from the same manufacturer to optimise integration. One contract, one customer service number and one engineer will streamline your equipment management and a good manufacturer will provide excellent customer service, advice and training to support you throughout the equipment’s lifetime.
Invest in your future – at your own pace
Digital equipment can be adopted in stages over a manageable period of time, allowing you to recoup on one investment before making the next and ensuring you don’t overstretch your budget. An intraoral scanner, for example, is a good place to start as it can easily integrate with an otherwise analogue workflow.
There is plenty of evidence to support the business case for digital dentistry and with more laboratories becoming digitally-enabled and patients expecting the very best treatment at a time to suit them, it makes sound business sense to invest in now.
To find out more about the extensive range of digital solutions, equipment and materials, please visit dentsplysirona.com or call us on 01932 853 422, or contact your local Dentsply Sirona territory sales manager.
You can also access a range of education resources, video tutorials, courses and CPD webinars at dentsplysirona.com/ukeducation.