Form and a lot of function
How ambient technologies can make your dentistry better.
More than convenience
Many of these products may seem simply nice to have, but the added features are more than just bells and whistles.
“From a health and wellness standpoint, it’s not just a dental stool,” Dr. Rice says. “The best stools that I sit on, as a dentist, allow me to have proper posture. And if you look statistically, and this is really frightening, 70 percent of people who are still in dental school already have a back and/or neck issue, and that’s before they ever even walk out of school. So you can imagine the limitations in the dentists’ career cycle that ties directly to what we sit on every single day. Something so simple as that stool either helps me practice 25 or 30 years, or contributes to my demise. It’s a major issue.
“On the cabinetry side, I learned the way my operatory lays out contributes to how efficiently I work with my assistant, how we work with one another, to the technology that’s built into the cabinetry that makes life so simple,” he continues. “Because everything plug and plays into that cabinetry—all the lasers, all the CAD/CAM, all the dental softwares, all of those things require something as simple as power, and those cabinets are designed to not only power that technology, but also to do it so it’s neat and clean and tidy. And they’ve thought about how it runs for the next 20 years.”
Dr. Flucke communicated his work style and work needs to the architect designing his office. With those considerations in mind, they were able to design the space that he needed to accommodate the equipment and the furniture that he required.
“I actually started with, ‘Here’s where I work, here’s the clinical piece of it and I know that I need more room in me treatment areas,’ so we intentionally made them bigger,” Dr. Flucke says. “Once we got a rough layout, then I went cabinet shopping, and I bought everything new. I spent a lot of time looking at cabinet designs and where the hardware was placed and all that.”
And that kind of future-proofing can extend to built-in instrumentation or treatment centers/units as well. “Our units are technology-driven—specifically by software that allows practitioners to integrate new features indefinitely,” Leduc explains. “Even if hardware updates have to be purchased, it’s never a complete exchange. For example, if it’s a new offering for an endodontic product previously purchased, you simply acquire the new attachment and the software update will do everything else that is needed to be done. It’s merely an add-on.”
Upgrades and renovations
Once a purchase is made, whether or not something is upgraded in the future depends on the doctor, his or her needs and the equipment’s service history.
“It’s a dynamic environment, so I purchase things hoping to get as long a lifetime out of them as I can, but I do buy them knowing that you’re going to have to swap them out at some point in time,” Dr. Flucke says. “In my case it’ll probably be because something better has come along, but it just as well could be that it starts to look dated.”
The size and how a piece of equipment is used in the practice also matter when it comes time to upgrade or replace.
“In principle it is swappable, so long as you have begun with the end in mind,” Dr. Rice observes. “For example, is it a rear delivery system, so the cabinetry behind me has all the functional capability, there’s nothing in front of the patient and it’s neat and clean? Or is it an over-the-patient delivery system? So whatever you pick, you can switch gears and move from one to the other, but if you layout your treatment room in a certain way, you almost buy into that philosophy of delivery for the long haul.
“On the flipside, I kind of look at it how people look at their home,” he continues. “Most people make an initial investment when they walk in the door—they paint the walls, they put in new carpet or they replace and put hardwood down. But it’s easy, 10 years later, 15 years later, to look at your house through the same lens that you did on day one, so it tends to be more difficult to come back in and redo the kitchen in 10 years than it was to just do it on the front end. I encourage people to always have a first set of eyes in your practice, because every single person who walks in as a patient, or a new team member, or if I’m a dentist trying to transition my practice, all those people are looking at your practice very differently than we do. Renovating, staying current, and having a plan and a budget to say, ‘Every 10 years, I might need to invest in XYZ to improve my space,’ becomes really important.”
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