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    The future of dental practices

    Experts say the field of dentistry is shifting and new advancements will accompany the change. What will your dental practice look like five years from today?


    Dr. Flucke is confident that digital caries detection will continue to be a growth industry. 

    “The visual aspect—taking pictures of teeth and then showing where decay is on the screen—that’s going to continue to advance,” he says. “There is a very strong possibility that ability may move into other devices as well.” 

    Dr. Gray values his role with research groups—the role of a clinician who gets to learn firsthand if products meet clinical acceptance in his field. And while more than half go back to the producer to be reconfigured, the ones that survive are “fantastic.” “Digital scanners come to mind,” Dr. Gray says. “We got our first about a decade ago and made our first purchase about eight years ago. We couldn’t practice without it.” He says the three he uses in his practice help with the workflow because information is automatically stored or sent to the right place. 

    Trending article: How to make the best technology choices for your practice

    Where will the dental practice be in five years? Much more reliant on digital scanners, he says. There are more uses for digital scanners than are currently put to use. The first is data capture itself. By doing scans on new patients as part of the comprehensive exam, dentists have their data stored, should they need it. Say the patient undergoes a trauma to his or her mouth: Clinicians can print off a perfect 3D model of the teeth before the accident. They’ll no longer have to guess. 

    “Digital scanning will play an integral role and be a standard of care in the initial comprehensive exam in the near future,” Dr. Gray says. 

    It’s already trending that way with a rapid increase in usage of digital scanners. 

    “I would say that more practices by far are going to be involved in digital impressions,” Dr. Flucke says. “I’ve seen statistics from dental labs that show that the number of cases coming in that are digital versus analog are rapidly increasing.” 

    Related reading: Unpacking the differences in intraoral scanning options

    Digital photography can do the same thing. “There’s really no reason why we shouldn’t have every single dentist on every single patient be taking a landscape set of photos before we start treatment,” Dr. Gray. says “We should be taking eight photos: five intraoral and three extraoral, of every patient, at the initial clinical exam and every time we see a condition that is abnormal.” Dentists can also use the intraoral camera to look at fractures in the teeth, lesions and anything else that looks suspicious, he advises. And getting in the habit of capturing data at every turn will be beneficial in the long run. 

    Digital scanners have many benefits: They are faster than the traditional method, provide a much better patient experience and improve the workflow. But they have their limitations as well. So much so that Dr. Gray uses traditional impression material a quarter of the time. 

    “The biggest limiting factor with digital scanning that a lot of docs aren’t aware of is that a scanner can’t be used for every single situation,” Dr. Gray says. “If you’ve got anything at all that is obscuring the margin of your preparation — if there’s any fluid, be it blood, saliva or intra crevicular fluid, or if your margin is way subgingival and gingival tissue hangs over it — you can’t use a scanner.” 


    Next: Is digital always the way to go?


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