Gary Kaye, DDS, FAGD

Restorative digital dentistry (RDD) can be a complicated thing at first glance. It can be frustrating, demanding, confusing, and even exhausting to master. But there is no doubt that it can also be extremely rewarding! It revolutionizes the patient's experience, office professionalism, and profits. It is a tool that can enhance the quality and scope of a practice significantly.

RDD requires us to make smart choices about strategy and manufacturers. It requires us to give of ourselves-to learn and exchange information and ideas. It requires us to share knowledge and experience. Indeed, it requires all of this so that we can better serve our patients. It's about having the courage to start and complete the journey we choose to take, leading our teams effectively along the way.

I would advise you to contemplate what strategy is right for you. This depends on your goals, style of practice, comfort with technology, and team. Evaluate your stand on these subjects before choosing to devote yourself to these exciting new technologies.

You have three alternatives:

  • Stay traditional in your practice. No RDD.
  • Adopt a scanning system, and continue to get the labs to fabricate the restorations.
  • Move to a full in-office computer assisted design and milling system (CAD-CAM).

Below are some steps you can take to better understand your decision.

1. Involve your team

Help everyone on your team see that this change does not just mean the introduction of new technology, but a new mindset and approach to how they will practice dentistry. Make them active participants in the decision. They will be working with RDD as well.

2. Remember that the dentist has multiple roles

On any given day, a dentist wears one of three hats: clinician, manager, and practice owner. As a clinician, we consider what is best for patients. When you take care of your patients, everything else will be taken care of alongside them, and this is how you, as a clinician, can approach technology. As a manager, you are responsible for your staff. You can involve them from the beginning in decisions that affect them so they will be more receptive to change. As a practice owner, you also can consider what will be best for the practice. The adoption of digital technology, therefore, should provide you with a return on investment, whether through a monetary profit, new patients, enhanced patient care, or more efficient and productive team workflow.

3. Is the practice ready?

Most changes, especially fundamental changes, can be good for practices. But adding new technology will not fix underlying problems within an office. These problems need to be honestly addressed before incorporating something new. This becomes a great opportunity to recalibrate systems and procedures that may have been overlooked for some time. Incorporating new technology into a practice will not fix dysfunction, but it will enhance the aspects of the business that are already working well.

Now, is the practice ready to start the integration of digital technology, or are other projects happening? Starting too many things at once can be stressful. Finally, know that you must be willing to provide leadership and focus to your staff when integrating new technologies.

4. Complete the "Strategy Indicator Scorecard"

Find the Stragegy Indicator Scorecard at www.godigitaldentistry.com. This checklist will help you think through the various success factors.

5. Talk to technology specialists

There is no monopoly on wisdom. It is absolutely invaluable to have conversations with PlanScan, TRIOS, and other manufacturer reps, as well as:

  • NYCDD
  • Professional colleagues and local study clubs
  • References from manufacturers
  • Labs
  • Your team

These are some good questions to ask:

  • What do I think would be the right strategy for my office? Why? How does it connect to my mission and values as a business?
  • Do I have knowledge of a practice similar to mine adopting each strategy? What happened? Why?
  • What are the risks? What can go wrong?
  • What are the long-term implications for my office?
  • What are the trade-offs between the various strategy alternatives in my case?
  • How long did it take to make the transition to that strategy? What are the key success factors?

6. Draw your conclusion and involve your team in making an informed choice!