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It all can be just a little overwhelming. There’s so much to think about when it comes to dental imaging, from whether it’s time for your office to make an investment in cone beam technology to what kind of digital camera you should use to document your cases. Digital sensors, servers to store your images, pan/ceph technology, intraoral cameras-they’re all part of the imaging spectrum, and with each technology there’s plenty you should know and plenty to learn.
It all can be just a little overwhelming. There’s so much to think about when it comes to dental imaging, from whether it’s time for your office to make an investment in cone beam technology to what kind of digital camera you should use to document your cases.
Digital sensors, servers to store your images, pan/ceph technology, intraoral cameras-they’re all part of the imaging spectrum, and with each technology there’s plenty you should know and plenty to learn.
To help expand your imaging knowledge, we put together a set of true/false questions that cover the dental imaging gamut and asked industry experts to give us their take on why each question is true or false. Liabilities, staff training and going digital are all covered in this 10-question dental imaging overview.
Before you read their answers, test your imaging IQ.
Take a look at the questions and see how many you can answer correctly, then benefit from the knowledge and experience of dental experts who know what these types of products and services can do for a practice and its patients.
Paul Hinman, Vice President of Technology for Liptak Dental Services
1. All digital sensors are created equal. The only real difference is price and customer service the company offers.
False. The image a sensor produces is just one factor in the critical decision over which sensor to purchase, and the major brands’ sensors are getting very close to one another in image quality. The other factors are almost as important as image quality, if not even more important. The details on the warranties is a huge sensor battleground-ask a lot of questions!
Our main focus at Liptak is compatibility: Will it work the way you want it to with the software you already have? This is business-critical, not diagnostic-critical. As technology consultants, we know the impact of having many extra steps, frequent driver issues, future software incompatibilities and other obstructions to efficiency in the dental office. Multiply this by the 18 images in an FMX times the number of patient exams per week times your relative payroll factor. That’s a LOT!
As a business owner, you should remember the following: Never buy a software or hardware technology product with a small user base if you intend to run your business with it for any length of time. Windows and the computer world change rapidly. A small company cannot afford to maintain the development investment it takes to be a partner in your daily life.
Dr. Terry Myers, who writes about and lectures on CBCT
2. Cone beam technology is far too advanced for a general dentist.
False. The manufacturers have done a great job of making today’s systems turnkey. Patient positioning is the key as with a pano system. All assistants and hygienists in our practice are capable of acquiring an image. If a GP is unsure of the anatomy and possible pathology he or she is viewing, oral and maxillofacial radiologists can view them for a nominal fee.
As a general dentist in this economy, we try to be as profitable as possible. Many cone beam systems are purchased for the intent of implant placement. However, cone beam systems are a valuable asset to general practice in all disciplines: teeth crowding and eruption for orthodontics; canals, morphology, underobturated canals and fractured roots in endodontics; periodontal defects for possible grafting, in addition to nerve location for impacted extractions or implant placements. It’s very beneficial to be able to evaluate the TMJ system 360º prior to restorations.
These above mentioned can be captured in unbelievable detail with one 10-14 second image acquisition. By having more details with the 3D image, it allows us to keep more procedures in house rather than refer to specialists like we did previously.
Dr. Marty Jablow, Pride Institute Best of Class Technology Award panelist
3. If I invest into a specific pan/ceph technology, I’m locked into that piece of equipment for the next 10 years.
False. Just because a newer technology comes along it doesn’t render the technology you are currently using obsolete. Think about all the old x-ray heads still in use. If it does what you need there is no reason to upgrade.
And like all expensive equipment you have to define what you want it to do and if it will provide what you need. So some research is needed to determine if a pan/ceph is right for your office based on the treatment you provide. Will the equipment be upgradable to cone beam if you want to move in that direction in the future? So you need to self access your office and equipment needs.
Dr. Martin B. Goldstein, a digital dental photography pioneer
4. Digital photography offers significant value to a general practice beyond showing beautiful before and after photos of an esthetic transformation.
True. Showing patients their transformations might be the tip of the iceberg with respect to our digital photography capabilities in dentistry. Atop my list of uses resides “co-diagnosis,” the shortest path to gaining treatment acceptance that I know of. “The picture is worth a thousand words” still rings true. Add to this list the photographic documentation of “how you found it before you started” on everyday dentistry as well as treatment planning assistance when your patient doesn’t happen to be in the chair, and your digital camera becomes an indispensable tool that’s no less important than your digital x-ray system.
Paul Hinman, Vice President of Technology for Liptak Dental Services
5. To be a digital dentist you need to hire a server specialist.
True. To properly run a business on computers, in any fashion, requires the advice and support of professionals.
Anyone can do it improperly, and this wastes more money every month than the computers themselves. The inefficiency of old and misdirected computer networks makes them an anchor around the neck of your business rather than the fast, critical tools that they should be. Speed, reliability and data security are what the pros live by.
Any kid can build a computer-they are even color-coded inside to make it simple. It takes a national hardware manufacturer and an experienced professional to design a business-appropriate network and a good five-year plan on the table for that pro to make the right decisions today.
Dr. Terry Myers
6. You must tell your patients how much radiation they’re being exposed to in a given procedure.
False. Changing “must” to “should” would make this true. As with all treatment, you should inform before you perform. When patients hear CT they think of big hospital based units.
Reassurance of low radiation with comparison to regular dental x-rays for each system would be advised.
Patients have concerns over radiation. The unfortunate recent events in Japan have brought these concerns to the forefront. It is our duty to educate the value of having 3D imaging that provides a more accurate diagnosis. For a medium field of view 3D image, the radiation dose is only 30-40 microsieverts (μSv) as compared to 150 μSv for a full-mouth dental 2D x-ray series or 3,000 μSv for a hospital based spiral CT.
Scott Bender, Sales Manager Film Digitizer Business Line, VIDAR Systems Corp.
7. I have too many film hard files to go digital.
False. Moving from analog to digital is a decision that should not be taken lightly. However, the number of analog films you have should not be the determining factor.
The VIDAR Dental Film Digitizer allows you to easily convert all of your hard copy films to digital in just seconds. The digitally converted images are diagnostic quality and can be stored in your patient records for easy access. VIDAR Systems Corp. has been in the imaging business for 25+ years with more than 21,000 medical grade film digitizers installed worldwide, enjoying an 85% market share.
8. Once I’ve taken a scan, I can just attach it to an e-mail and send it on to an insurance provider or a specialist.
False. Great sentence. It really IS almost that easy. There are so many cool things about scans. I love that we can send them and share the joy with others. There are, however, a few things you will need to attach to an e-mail.
First, to share with the insurance companies, you will need attachment capabilities. Your insurance clearing house may offer that ability. Most clearing houses charge you a fee to send the insurance claims, they may charge an additional fee per attachment. I would recommend taking a look at your contract and ask for a bundle package or a flat fee, not a charge for every attachment. If you are not sure of the abilities, check out NEA Fast Attach. They can give you a great idea of what to expect.
The next thing that is super cool about the scan is to be able to share it with your friends, better known as referring dentists. You can send the scan anywhere, but for someone to view the scan will take a little bit more than just an e-mail. The easiest way to do this sharing is through a portal. For example, if you subscribe to a portal or even storage on the cloud, you upload the scan to your portal, send an e-mail message to your “friends,” and they can then log in with access to view the scan. There are several services out there that will give you this capability. Some of the companies you are using now may offer this and you don’t even know it. For example, if you currently use Solutionreach, formerly Smile Reminder, you have the ability to share right now! Sharing just became so much more fun!
Amy Morgan, CEO of the Pride Institute
9. As long as a dental assistant in your practice is trained on using your imaging equipment, you’re good to go.
False. It is essential for the leader to look at the assimilation of a new clinical advancement or technology not from just the viewpoint of “how does it work.”
For successful integration, you need to consider the systems that may be affected by the new technology (scheduling, finance, treatment presentation, continuing care, etc.) and make sure the ENTIRE team is on board and trained. If for no other reason than being aware of the features and benefits, so they can inspire patients. Including only the clinical team in direct training is a costly mistake.
Dr. Marty Jablow
10. I use digital cameras and digital x-ray, so I don’t really need my intraoral camera any more.
False. Point and Shoot along with DSLR cameras along with digital x-rays do not replace an intraoral camera. Newer cameras allow for easier use as they are directly connected to computers via USB. This makes them ultra portable. There is no setup for taking the picture. For extraoral cameras you need to have mirrors and retractors.
An intraoral camera can easily document fractures and decay during the procedure. Acteon’s SOPROLIFE is an intraoral camera with built in caries detection. Intraoral cameras make documentation and patient education easy.