Revisiting the Early Days of Tech in Dentistry

December 6, 2016
DMD Staff

Ed Zuckerberg, DDS, is the founder of Painless Social Media, a company geared toward bringing in new clients and bolstering relationships with existing ones. He’s also the father of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In this clip, Dr. Zuckerberg reflects on how far technology in the dental practice has come from its humble beginnings.

Ed Zuckerberg, DDS, is the founder of Painless Social Media, a company geared toward bringing in new clients and bolstering relationships with existing ones. He’s also the father of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In this clip, Dr. Zuckerberg reflects on how far technology in the dental practice has come from its humble beginnings.

Interview Transcript (slightly modified for readability)

“I’ve been blessed with a vision of being able to look at some of the technologies and just go, ‘Wow, that’s really useful, that’s going to be great.’ And at other technologies, and say, ‘I’m not quite sure. Maybe it will work. Maybe it won’t.’ Not everybody has that vision of being able to look at something. I took advantage of that, kind of accidentally. Happened to be in the right place at the right time a few places along the way.

Back in 1981, when we bought our home in Westchester County, New York. Interest rates were challenging, to say the least. Mortgage rates were like 17, 18 percent. I fell into a relationship with Citi Bank at the time because they were the only one who were writing mortgages in the New York area. They actually had a pilot online banking program. I had an Atari 800 computer back than and they had a modem that plugged into the Atari and I did a ridiculous online banking session back in 1981 where I paid 3 bills to major utilities in over an hour. My wife was completely unimpressed, stating she could write the checks in 5 minutes. Yet I saw then that that was going to change the way that things are done. I was very excited when PC Store opened up the IBM produce center back in 1985 and even though $10,000 back then bought me a horribly pathetic computer that couldn’t store one of today’s digital photos, and dental practice-management software that was just God awful, but I learned what was bad, and it helped me look for what I wanted.

Along the way, I wasn’t afraid to jump in. New technology would have its place and was just fortunate enough to go with my gut instincts.

I remember I had a lot of resistance back in 1988, I think, is when I actually had the concept of putting computers in the operatories. There were very few clinical needs for computers in the operatories in the late ‘80s. We had a perio charting system that I replaced my hand charting system with. We went to a digital appointment book. Took a lot of flak from the staff members that I was taking away their big, double fold open appointment book. But it was kind of like, I got frustrated. And my frustrations led me to look for solutions. Being in the back, answering the phone, wanting to check the schedule and make an appointment for someone and having someone else have the appointment book tied up while they’re on the phone, that frustrated me.

Looking for ways to do things like that, trying technologies like air abrasion, which never really caught on great, but actually had a place in my practice where I was painless Dr. Z. Having a drill-free alternative fit into a list of phobias that my wife, who’s a psychiatrist, and I worked together on to really develop strategy for making the patient experience comfortable, for patients no matter what their phobia was. The noise of the drill, the smell of chemicals in the office, the appearance of people in white coats. Painful dentistry itself was the problem, and making the dental experience comfortable. Each step along the way, fortunately, helped us achieve our goals.”

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