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How a next-generation practice management system is changing the industry


Why Dentrix Ascend from Henry Schein One™ is the solution for the future of dentistry.

Adam McDaniel Loves what he does for a living. As the director of product management for Henry Schein One™, he thinks of himself as a person who solves problems for practices. Dentrix Ascend, the practice management platform for dental offices from Henry Schein One, is an example of a product that does just that.

“The dentist and the dental team have always had to take multiple solutions and cobble them together to manage a better dental business,” McDaniel says. “With Henry Schein One, we want to create one platform and connect the solutions for the team to use.”

Dentrix Ascend is designed to be a next-generation practice management system. From the beginning, McDaniel says the team wanted to start from a new place and a new platform to meet the changing needs of the company’s customers, which number in the tens of thousands and span the globe.

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“If you look at the different generations of people who have lived in this world, they changed and evolved over time with the things that are going on around them. Technology played into that. Today’s technology users are different than they were two decades ago when Dentrix was originally created,” he says.

Dentrix Ascend has taken all the things Henry Schein has learned over the more than 20 years of practice management systems and built it into a web-based practice management system. “As we build features into Dentrix Ascend, we use the knowledge we have from our history to help us move forward to our future,” McDaniel says.

McDaniel says that Dentrix Ascend is designed to connect with multiple dental technologies so that users can use best-of-breed solutions in their practice. A fan of tech giants like Google and Apple, he says innovation comes from everywhere. Other companies have what Henry Schein One’s team calls “distinctive competencies,” and the Dentrix Ascend platform seeks to integrate with them all on its future-focused platform.

Connecting multiple practice technologies to the practice management system is part of Henry Schein One’s history. Dentrix, the predecessor to cloud-based Dentrix Ascend, was the first software platform to create an API (application programming interface) that technology vendors could use to integrate with the Dentrix platform, similar to APIs found in other verticals, like the CRM (customer relationship management) product at Salesforce and the technology at Apple. Later this year, Henry Schein One will make a cloud API available to solution vendors with an API account to connect with Dentrix Ascend.

“Other companies have created and designed great technology. We want to create a platform where those other companies can integrate those technologies into our platform to use for the dental office,” McDaniel says.

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Dentrix Ascend incorporates clinical tools to improve clinical outcomes for doctors. For instance, the Quick Exam allows dentists to enter a diagnosis and then guides them using a feature called Clinical Decision Support to select a treatment plan appropriate for that diagnosis. Over time, dentists can see the results of their clinical outcomes for their diagnoses and resulting treatment plans, including failures as well as successes. While McDaniel says the feature will change the clinical landscape in a small way, it will help dentists in a big way to hone their treatment recommendations.

“The dentists set that all up themselves,” McDaniel says of the treatment plans that correspond with the diagnoses. “We aren’t trying to be dentists. We are trying to make it easier for dentists to be consistent and drive toward outcomes they want to see.”

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Another area Dentrix Ascend seeks to enhance for the dental office is clinical imaging. In its research, the Dentrix Ascend team saw that practices treat dental imaging as a separate application. The team also discovered that 33 percent of the time their dentists weren’t entering X-ray diagnostic procedures into the patient’s clinical chart because going back into the practice management system to enter them was an extra step.

When the staff takes an X-ray, Dentrix Ascend posts the diagnostic procedure in the clinical record and the patient ledger. This automatic feature not only saves the dental office time and creates more accurate clinical records, but it also aids the practice’s profitability.

“Those diagnostics are billable and typically covered at 100 percent,” McDaniels explains. “If 33 percent of these procedures were not posted correctly or at all in the practice management system, that equals around $100 a day that they aren’t billing correctly to the insurance just because they failed to enter the procedure.”

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On a four-day work week for a small practice, not entering the diagnostic X-rays translates to $400 a week and $1,600 a month, which is much more than Dentrix Ascend costs a small practice per month.  “That’s just one feature. There’s ROI all over the place in Dentrix Ascend,” McDaniel says.

Dentrix Ascend also helps to improve profitability with re-care appointments. From reminding the staff to re-engage with the patient to sending reports on which staff members struggle with re-care booking, the system addresses this vital loss of revenue for a practice. In addition, the system can automatically email patients in need of re-care appointments with a link to an online schedule so that patients can book themselves.

When McDaniel talks to dentists at trade shows or other events, he asks them a fundamental question: Do you believe your practice management system is helping you maximize your profitability and clinical outcomes? Many of the doctors don’t know if their system does. However, Dentrix Ascend has what Henry Schein One calls a GPS dashboard that helps with these areas.

GPS stands for “goals, problems and solutions.” McDaniel says the dashboard presents the practice’s goals, the problems keeping them from achieving those goals, and then provides workflow solutions to overcome the issues and reach those goals.

“It’s more than a printed report that shows you the problem, and now you have to hunt through the software to figure out how to solve the problem,” McDaniels explains. “We give you metrics on the screen. When you click on those metrics, we show what problems are taking place in your practice, and then we tell you what to do to solve those problems.”

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McDaniel and his team understand that switching practice management systems is complicated. That’s why they have a group dedicated to walking customers through the process. An account manager creates a project plan and walks the practice through each step. The company also gives customers a trial conversion so that they can review their data in the Dentrix Ascend format. These support programs are designed to make it easy for a practice to get the most out of the system.

“There are a lot of great systems out there and they do a lot of good to help dental practices, but we believe that Dentrix Ascend has some unique advantages to help the practice achieve more of their goals,” McDaniel says.

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