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Dr. John Flucke is in private practice in Lee’s Summit, Mo. He also serves as technology editor for Dental Products Report magazine and keeps an active blog filled with thoughts and tidbits on the world of technology at blog.denticle.com.
Dr. Flucke, Chief Dental Editor and Technology Editor at DPR, shares his personal choice for top 5 products based on the products he had the opportunity to test drive this year.
Another year is almost at an end and you know what that means-it’s time for my annual list of my Top 5 Test Drives. Every year in the November/December time frame, I take time to review the products that I’ve had an opportunity to use or test over the past 12 months. The best five of this list make it into this article.
These products have received hands-on usage by myself and my team, and have been the highest rated of the things we’ve gotten to use and try to break. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the best products I’ve seen in 2016.
This is part of our annual Top 100 issue. Every year we take a look back at the Top 100 products, videos, ebooks, webinars and articles that made this year great.
Up next: Take a look at the best test drives of 2016
Ultradent Gemini Laser
The Gemini diode laser is a device dripping with innovation. Even the packaging is an “experience,” as the materials and fabrication of the box and the component packaging have the feeling of an Apple-type product that has been well thought out from beginning to end.
Gemini is the industry’s first dual wavelength laser featuring the ability to use 810nm, 980nm or both wavelengths simultaneously. In addition to these unique features, the device also allows for super peak pulsing, which is a feature one usually expects to find in lasers with a much higher cost. It can develop as high as 20 Watts with the super peak pulses, which means the device cuts incredibly quickly but with minimal tissue tagging or collateral thermal interaction.
In addition to its clinical advantages, the Gemini also features an onboard rechargeable battery, cordless Bluetooth foot control and an extensive list of preset clinical procedures that can be edited to fit the user’s preferences. The tips are uni-dose and come in 5mm pre-initiated and 7mm uninitiated lengths.
The esthetics of the Gemini are sleek and breathtaking. The device is smooth and black for easy disinfection and features an attention grabbing heads-up display that never fails to impress the moment a patient lays eyes on it. Ultradent has taken the laser from utilitarian clinical hardware to operatory art. Put all of these features together with a competitive price and you have a true “raise the bar” product.
Futudent Glasses Mounted HD Camera
For years, I’ve had patients say something like “I wish there was a way I could watch what you are doing”. That is now a reality thanks to Futudent. However, the company’s focus is not on providing a way for patient’s to watch their treatment. No, Futudent is all about using their camera for education and co-diagnosis.
The Futudent HD Camera can be mounted in a variety of places. It can be attached to your glasses, worn on a headband or even on a hat (for the record, I work every day wearing a Kansas City Royals baseball hat and I clip my Futudent to the bill).
The great thing about this product is that it functions as a point-of-view device. By that I mean once you have it setup properly, it shows everything you see. This makes it ideal for being able to image things that are difficult or impossible to see using an intraoral camera. You can even see images intraorally using the dental mirror. The camera’s field of view is exactly your point of view, so that everywhere you look, the camera looks as well. This allows you to do a live tour of the mouth if you have an over the patient monitor, record the video for later review or take still photos of whatever you happen to be looking at.
The camera is very small and light (16 grams) so it doesn’t interfere with your comfort or your field of view while using it. A foot pedal controls the stop and start function of recording as well as taking the still photos. This allows it to function in a truly “hands free” mode which streamlines its use and doesn’t interrupt what you are doing with your hands. The video is captured at 25 frames per second, which is very smooth.
The recording software allows you to save the data anywhere you like, including the company’s HIPAA-compliant secure cloud server. The cloud storage also allows you to securely share the data with whomever you’d like: other doctors, the patient, etc.
It has been specifically designed for dentistry so its focal length is ideal, pretty much matching the focal length of your magnification. The depth of field was created with the mouth in mind. This means you don’t have to worry about keeping the image in focus or fighting the aggravating problems that come with cameras that auto focus and cannot produce crisp images much past the canines.
Patients have been very impressed with the camera and what we can do with it. This is truly proof of the old adage “good things come in small packages”.
iTero Element Intraoral Scanner
Digital scanners are making incredible inroads into our profession. My office moved over to the world of digital impressions about six years ago. Now we are down to about one analog (traditional) impression per month, and that is normally a crown under an existing partial denture. We started out with the original iTero scanner all those years ago and it quickly became a standard in our crown and bridge procedures.
We beta tested the next iTero version and while there were improvements over 1.0 we didn’t feel they were enough to justify the expense of purchasing the new unit. However, when the company shared confidential information with me on the Element Scanner while it was in development, I knew then and there I’d be the first in line for ordering.
We received the Element Scanner in the spring of this year and I held onto our original scanner in case of workflow issues in our two-doctor practice. I envisioned a situation of each doctor doing a crown prep at the same time and one patient having to wait because the scanner was in use.
I could not have been more wrong. The new iTero Element is so fast and so easy to use that our original iTero machine has sat gathering dust since the day the new one arrived.
The Element Scanner is considerably smaller than the previous iTero systems. Previous versions used a PC running Windows to power acquisition. This made the devices bulky, heavy and hard to move. The Element is a tablet that runs the acquisition software. It can be placed on a countertop or on a portable wheeled stand. If anything goes wrong with the system, rather than waiting for a service technician to come and repair the unit, a new unit is shipped to the office and the defective one is sent back. This means minimal downtime for problems. I find that aspect of tech support to be genius.
The camera/wand that is used intraorally is now 40 percent smaller and lighter. While we rarely had problems or complaints with the original system, we are finding the new wand even easier to work with. It also captures images at an astounding 6,000 frames per second. Scanning a case in our office is a minimum of 50 percent faster than before. That is the reason we have never had a problem with two crown preps being performed simultaneously. Scanning can frequently be done in less time than a traditional impression can be performed.
Overall, iTero has created a system that accomplishes much more than previous versions with less effort. Factor in that the price has not increased substantially, and you can see why this device is a complete winner.
Ultradent VALO Grand
As I’ve said previously, we need more innovation from our dental R&D partners! There has been a noticeable decrease in the number of new and exciting technologies and the industry is hungry for them. With that being said, I’m proud of Ultradent for having two winners in the Top 5 Test Drives. The very, very smart folks in South Jordan, Utah have been on a roll this year!
The VALO line of curing lights debuted in 2009 and the LED market turned on its collective ear. Here was a curing light that was smaller than a SoniCare toothbrush and yet was capable of delivering the highest photon density the market had ever seen. Fast-forward to 2016 and Ultradent has once again proven they are a force to be reckoned with with the release of the VALO Grand. Simply put, this device raises the bar for every curing light on the market.
It is CNC-milled out of a solid piece of aerospace aluminum to make it incredibly strong and virtually indestructible in the dental environment. It is painted with a scratch-resistant sapphire-hard coating that is then covered with a Teflon seal for easy cleaning. This construction makes it remarkably strong and durable. It is powered by two lithium iron phosphate batteries that deliver consistently high-energy. Add to that the fact the batteries are inexpensive and available from a variety of sources (not just Ultradent).
However, the feature that truly sets this apart is the lens. The Grand has a curing surface of 12mm, which is 50 percent larger than other VALO lights. That means it can easily cover the entire occlusal surface of a 10mm more with room to spare. And it means no more multiple cures just to ensure the occlusal surface is properly photopolymerized.
It has proved itself in our practice, and if you are looking for a new curing light, I feel it should be on your short list to evaluate.
If you are looking for a place to store all of your digital data, look no further than Drobo. The Drobo company has been making products for several years, but in 2016 they decided to enter the dental industry.
Drobo makes a variety of external hard drives for backing up and/or storing your data. However, they do it with a unique twist. Drobo devices contain multiple hard drives and store your information redundantly on all of the drives (like a server). Drobo solves the problem of a failed hard drive-if one of your hard drives fails, it can easily be replaced.
A light on the front of the device will indicate which drive has failed. You then simply open a door on the front, remove the failed drive (it simply slides out) and slide in a new hard drive. The Drobo device will then format the drive and begin using it-all done automatically. It is an amazingly simple process. The other great advantage is that Drobo uses a proprietary format so the hard drives can only be read in another Drobo device. This helps with security. Also, the hard drives used are the same standard hard drives found in PCs so getting a new one, if needed, is easy and inexpensive. The Drobo 5N that I am currently using has room for five drives. I chose to fill those slots with three Terabyte Western Digital hard drives, which means I now have 15 Terabytes of storage. That is an insane amount of space.
The other great thing about this particular model is the letter “N” in the name. It stands for “network” and means that the device is a “NAS” (network attached storage) which can be accessed by any computer on my network. The Drobo 5N has a gigabit Ethernet connection which allows it to deliver and receive data at the maximum speed of my network. They have also recently developed apps that allow you to access the device from your phone or tablet.
The past year has been a fun one for me. I love staying on the leading edge, and testing (and sometimes breaking) gear is something that I love to do. I hope that this list of my Top 5 for the year will help you as well. Happy Holidays!