Technology panel: Part II
Q: Flucke: Can a wi-fi SD card (eye-fi) be used for digital dental imaging?
A: Absolutely! The Eye-Fi can even be used with a CF adapter and placed into cameras that only take CF (Compact Flash). The best thing about the Eye-Fi is that it can be set up to download all of your pictures automatically as they are taken. This means more efficiency when showing patients photos as there is no downtime while you load the memory card into a reader and then download them.
I have a blog post detailing how one doctor is doing this. You can read the post by going to: dentaltechnologyblog.blogspot.com
Q: Flucke: I am concerned about the high cost of dental care. Technology is very cool and makes dentistry more interesting and helpful. However, I don’t see the end product justifying the great expense of the equipment. Can you see a way that going “high tech” will reduce costs to the consumer?
A: Cost can be a relative thing in a lot of regards and isn’t always definitely defined by the fee the practice charges. Let’s use lasers as an example. If a patient has been diagnosed with 2 needed restorations per quadrant and has this need in all 4 quadrants, this would frequently mean 2 office visits. Most doctors don’t’ like to give bilateral inferior alveolar blocks preferring instead to treat the upper and lower on the same side at one visit and then upper and lower on the opposite side at the next visit. In this scenario of 2 appointments, the patient has one extra time off work, one extra baby sitter, one extra gasoline consumption, etc in addition to the cost of the treatment. Many employees that I see must take time off in ∏ day increments. Needless to say these hourly wage patients are paying a lot of money for that extra appointment. In this scenario, the laser actually saves the patient money.
The same scenario applies to CAD/CAM. If you can reduce the number of patient visits, then you have actually saved the patient money. Technology and the efficiency it brings can help streamline the treatment and allow the patient more time to earn a living instead of sitting in a dental office.
Q: Flucke: Though the technodontics revolution is amazing, doesn’t it make basic dental care less accessible for the 120 million Americans that cannot even afford minimal services?
A: If the office is more efficient and profitable due to technology, they now have the time and financial resources to be able to donate care to those who cannot afford it.
Remembering that efficiency helps cut costs means you have more time in your schedule to help others. If, through the use of digital radiography, I can cut 30 minutes from an endo appointment, I can now earn the same money with 30 minutes to spare. That extra half hour can be used, if the dentist chooses, to provide care to those who cannot afford it. Working slowly with antiquated materials is not the way to help more people who desperately need us.
Current statistics indicate that more dentists are retiring than graduating. That means that for the foreseeable future practices will actually get busier. We will need the efficiency technology brings to allow us to help more patients. Many people see the dollar signs accompanying technology and assume that it will drive costs up. Frequently this type of efficiency means more treatment for more individuals.
It also means that once you begin to treat one of those 120 million you can do more treatment, with high quality, in less time and therefore require fewer appointments.