Is it time to invest in digital dentistry?
Article Thumbnail ImageOctober 12, 2011 -- LAS VEGAS - If you haven't invested in digital technologies yet, you may be undervaluing your dental practice by tens of thousands of dollars, according to Paul Feuerstein, DMD, speaking at the ADA Annual Session on October 10.
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In a jam-packed, 60-minute presentation, entitled "Be a Trailblazer: Embrace the Future of Digital Dentistry," Dr. Feuerstein blazed his way through a plethora of cutting-edge products (120 in all) available at this year's ADA session, from digital diagnostic tools for caries and cancer detection to next-generation practice management software and voice-activated perio charting packages.

"I do not play golf," Dr. Feuerstein said. "I practice and work on my passion seven days a week, going to as many dental meetings as possible and looking at every product that I can."

First up was infection control. Noting growing concerns over the risks of cross-contamination from various sources in the dental operatory, he recommended several new keyboards that offer barrier protection: the Econo-Keys and Unotron washable keyboards, Advanced Input's covered keyboard, and Cleankeys' glass keyboard.

Next up was how to achieve a chartless office. Noting that all U.S. medical records have to be digital by the year 2014 under legislation enacted by former President George W. Bush, Dr. Feuerstein stressed process in addition to products.

"Pick a date, and from that date forward all new entries are digital," he said. "You do NOT have to scan the old charts -- just refer to them as needed. For the first six months you are digital, you will pull all of the charts and look at them. The next six months you will look at half, the next six months one out of ten, and beyond that, rarely."

In addition to the multitude of established practice management systems, Dr. Feuerstein pointed to a number of new players, especially those that offer cloud computing services, such as Curve Dental, Ice Dental Systems, and Planet DDS.

"The beauty here is no server is needed," he said.

Turning to patient education, Dr. Feuerstein talked for several minutes about digital cameras.

"Take a full series of photos for patients with restorative needs and use them to better communicate to them the treatment plan," he said.

And be sure to buy a camera from a camera company that knows dentistry, he emphasized. "Be clear to them what your needs are," he said.

Dr. Feuerstein also recommended using a contraster to get high-contrast images. In fact, one company -- PhotoMed International -- even has an "antinose hair" contraster.

Dr. Feuerstein, who emphasized that he receives no compensation from vendors for his product recommendations, also discussed periodontal charting products, soft-tissue lasers, digital radiography systems, intraoral cameras, and digital diagnostic tools for caries and cancer detection.

"Is the explorer the best thing we've got for finding lesions?" he said. "I don't think so."

And Dr. Feuerstein's vote for the most interesting use of technology on the ADA show floor this year? The Sonicare DiamondClean USB toothbrush by Philips.

"You can charge it on your computer!" he said.