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    Why it's critical to design with the future in mind

    When it comes to office renovation and dental cabinetry, planning for the future is critical for the success of your practice.

    Evolution can be a real bear for a species that refuses to change. From the dodo to the saber-toothed tiger, animals who, for various reasons, failed to adapt to a changing environment or predation paid the ultimate price. The really bad part about paying the ultimate price is not extinction in itself. No the really bad part is usually the slow and painful demise that awairs. Change is not a natural part of our universe.

    The second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of an isolated system always increases over time, or remains constant in ideal cases where the system is in a steady state or undergoing a reversible process. The law of entropy basically states that things naturally progress from order to disorder.  

    Now, I know what you are thinking: “Flucke, you’ve finally totally lost it. What does order and disorder have to do with technology and/or technology in dentistry?” Well my friends, let me explain myself. Our profession is continually evolving. We can have things organized exactly the way we need and want them today, but next week a new product comes along that requires us to change the setup for a procedure or variety of procedures. Unfortunately, sometimes when that happens, things can rapidly progress from order to disorder. Behold entropy!

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    The starting line

    This is that magical part of our careers when we have everything exactly the way we want it. Maybe it’s the first day of clinical practice or maybe it’s the first day in your very own office. No matter what the circumstances, there is a place for everything … and everything is in its place. We dentists love organization. Having everything organized into properly done setups makes procedures go faster and with less stress.

    When you really think about it, we as health care professionals spend decent amounts of our time and treasure achieving organization and keeping it that way. Whether it is instrument cassettes, digital dentistry or our custom dental cabinetry, we like things organized. 

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    Keeping it together without falling apart

    In order to fight our old enemy entropy and to help keep things in an orderly fashion, we employ a number of techniques, tricks and devices.

    As mentioned above, one of the most important of these is dental cabinetry. Over the years I’ve had lots of discussions with both manufacturers and colleagues about the subject. The manufacturers are focused on quality and innovation, while the majority of the dentists I’ve spoken to are focused on cost. One of my friends even humorously asks where “dental wood” comes from, because it sure is expensive.

    Here’s my opinion on the matter. Everything made specifically for dentistry costs more than a consumer version. However, there is a good reason for this. The dental specific models are dental specific. That means they can only be sold in a very limited market (dentistry). That fact means there is a limited number of sales that can be made. If Quicken were a dental program it would cost more than $10,000. However, because it can be sold to millions of users, it can be purchased for less than $100.

    The costs have nothing to do with the materials the products are made of. It’s just a simple matter of economics … supply and demand. I mean, let’s face it, if IKEA could sell dental cabinetry to their customer base you can quickly imagine what the cost savings would be.

    Also remember the research and development that goes into lots of dental products. If you combine those costs with the costs of governmental regulations that some of the products must go through, you can understand how those costs must be spread out over those individuals who purchase. That, it turn, simply causes the purchase price to increase.

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    Over the years that I’ve been experimenting and tinkering in dentistry I’ve tried several different ways to save money while maintaining or increasing efficiency. One of the ways I tried was by using non-dental specific cabinetry. I learned that was a mistake. My grandpa Flucke used to say, “Experience is what you get five minutes after you needed it in the first place.” He was a smart man, my grandpa. The companies that make dental cabinetry have a vast history of experience to draw on. They not only know how to avoid the mistakes of the past, but they are also constantly thinking about the future and how it will affect their products.

    The cabinetry that I had custom built for an operatory saved me some money, but it definitely didn’t function nearly as well as the other operatories. Little nuances that I failed to include (because I lacked the experience) made that particular workspace less organized and efficient. Yes, I saved money initially, but the long-term costs in terms of efficiency were not worth the savings. When I built my new office, all the clinical cabinetry was dental cabinetry. I had learned my lesson. This was especially true because of all the technology that I use on a daily basis. Today’s cabinetry has been designed to contain and support the technology platforms we need to do dentistry in the current environment.

    With all of that said, there is one recommendation I’d like to make to all the cabinetry companies out there: Give us more counter space!  When I built my new office, I had grown tired of fighting space limits as far as floor space. Because of this, I made my operatories three feet wider and three feet longer than the industry standard. This gave me plenty of room to bring in things like a cart for endo, my hard tissue laser, my iTero digital impression scanner, etc. However, the cabinetry that was delivered and installed had the standard amount of counter space since it was designed for the standard operatory space. Of course this meant that I was still going to struggle with what I’ve come to call “countertop real estate.” So, all you cabinet companies that are reading this, give us counter space options! We need them!

     

    Continue to page two to learn what the future holds...

    Dr. John Flucke
    Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and ...

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