Eimear O’Connell talks to Guy Hiscott about her digital journey and the win-win offered by modern technology.
How ‘digital’ is your practice?
Our practice is pretty thoroughly digitised.
We have fully integrated appointment diaries, practice administration, digital X-rays, and iPads for patient medical histories. Of course, these days we also have remote COVID-19 questionnaires too!
We’ve used CEREC since 2008. We then got Sirona Othophos CBCT about five years ago to allow the in-house production and design of surgical guides, as well as in-house implant restorations.
We actually now do everything we can digitally!
What made you take the jump into digital technology?
My investment into a digital practice began when my youngest sister started sending me letters she’d written on a computer. That was 25 years ago – I had just started working as a principal. I decided there and then that I wanted a fully computerised practice. It took me nearly 20 years to achieve my ambition!
How has it impacted your practice?
Right from the outset, single-visit dentistry seemed like such a great idea. Of course, the reality was much harder to put into everyday practice. But we now can deliver that routinely.
The use of surgery time is much more efficient and therefore more profitable.
It’s a great boost for our patients, too. Every patient is fascinated to see inside their own mouth in high-definition colour video. It’s truly a great educator for them. You know things are working well when patients love the workflows too!
What was the learning curve like?
We’ve had a number of scanners in the practice over the years. The learning curve with the CEREC Bluecam was admittedly pretty steep. But the advancement in the algorithms in computing has made the capture and design phases a breeze compared to then.
With the new Primescan, the information is picked up so quickly and accurately that I can hardly remember the challenges I used to experience day to day!
I was using my Omnicam recently and I had forgotten how much slower and more careful you need to be to get the information accurately transferred from mouth to screen.
What are your key pieces of equipment?
There are a lot of things I think of as essential these days. The list includes my Primescan, CBCT, computerised X-rays, practice software – all of it, really!
The amazing thing about advances in technology is that you can’t ever go back. It all becomes essential very quickly!
What’s the easiest way for practices to get started with digital dentistry?
Nowadays, the capture of the intraoral situation with a camera is just such an amazing tool.
It avoids the need for impressions, which many patients hate. But it also gives us an amazing communication tool for dialogue with both patients and lab technicians.
If I was investing now, an intraoral scanner would be the first priority.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned on your digital journey?
The most important lesson is one that’s easy to forget when you’re excited by the possibilities of new technology. Not every single restoration or design can be carried out to the best standards in house.
You need to keep a good relationship with your lab and work as a team to deliver the best results every time.
Would you recommend investing into digital dentistry?
I have loved the journey that got us to where we are now. It is so interesting to keep developing skills. My team absolutely love it as they are involved in helping with many different aspects in the journey.
The best thing is that due to very good use of clinical time we can keep moving forward in a very profitable way without compromising patient care. In my book, that’s a huge win-win.
Eimear O’Connell is the principal of Bite Dentistry and past president of the Association of Dental Implantology.