Is digital dentistry still our ‘future’?

digital dentistryIs digital dentistry still our ‘future’, or is time to make it mainstream, asks Paul Abrahams.

For some time now, the pros of ‘going digital’ has been one of those topics that it has been near-impossible to escape from.

We’ve seen the cutting-edge tools and equipment at shows. We’ve heard industry colleagues waxing lyrical about how their workflows have been transformed. However, it seems we’re always talking about a digital future, with digital dentistry still (just) outside the mainstream.

So, why have practices not digitised? The cost implications are a factor, of course.

Even if we take the pandemic out of the equation, and the impact it has had on revenues, many will be reluctant to invest in digital until they can be sure that there will be genuine value in doing so.

Will investing in X, Y or Z improve clinical outcomes and enable richer conversations with patients? Will it make life easier and more efficient and help to boost profits? Or will it just mean more training and the inconvenience of software updates and engineer callouts if something goes wrong? With emerging technologies, there’s always something new that’s ready to launch. This is another reason to be cautious and to ‘wait and see’.

Reaping the benefits

For those practices who have already embraced digital, though, they will likely report how the return on their investment came much faster than expected.

Digital imaging technology enhances what we can see. It gives detailed information that can be shared, supporting improved diagnostics, treatment planning and patient compliance.

Workflows become speedier without compromise to results and being able to do more, in less time suits post-COVID scheduling protocols too (longer appointments, fewer patients per day).

Smile makeovers – for which there has a boom in demand, since people have been spending more time appraising themselves on a screen – are the perfect showcase for digital technology, in combination with the skills, expertise and knowledge of the dentist.

Smile simulation software will accurately show your patient the result of saying ‘yes’. Therefore, you can create a treatment plan to reach the agreed final destination, predictably, safely and ethically.

Great dentistry is a collaboration, and digital solutions can help to engage, educate and enlighten. They will allow you to understand every patient’s expectations and communicate your clinical goals and requirements. Then they will enable you to deliver!

Looking good

Cosmetic dentistry, from simple treatments to complex, can be exceptional when you ‘go digital’.

The BACD includes ‘digital’ on its wheel of knowledge, which represents the areas that, when mastered, will produce a clinically excellent cosmetic dentist. And it’s a great sales tool – don’t underestimate how many patients will be impressed by a practice that is using cutting-edge technology to give a high-quality, high-value experience.

Digital can really provide the ‘wow’ factor that makes you stand out. It is also a great tool to improve your technical skill – there is nothing like seeing our own work in minute detail on-screen. Ultimately, this can help to enhance outcomes for patients as well.

There are other benefits; CAD/CAM software for fabricating restorations not only makes the process quicker (for patients and you) but is also environmentally-friendly, as you’re using less consumables and creating less waste.

Is digital dentistry on the cusp of being mainstream? I would argue it already is.

If you are not utilising digital now, you are already behind.

Plenty has been written about how the pandemic has exacerbated trends in dentistry. Smooth workflows, positive engagement, efficient delivery and stable results – digital technology encompasses all of these things and more. So, the answer to ‘why digitise’ is ‘why not?’ In my practice, it all starts with a scan… 

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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