Technology in the Service of a Vision
When my dental practice opened in 2002, I had spent more than a decade as an associate.
When my dental practice opened in 2002, I had spent more than a decade as an associate. That experience helped me learn through firsthand observation what it meant to manage a dental practice. I was fortunate to be able to do this, and I believe it has helped me avoid many of the mistakes commonly made by new dentists. But more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to develop my vision of what a dental practice should be. It also enabled me to understand that there were certain tools that would be indispensable to me in realizing that vision. Among the most significant of those tools was my choice of radiography equipment.
First, let me share a bit about the vision I developed. I wanted my practice to be a place where patients feel better, both physically through better dental health and emotionally through an improved self-image. Among the things that mean the most to me is the privilege of spending a great deal of quality time with my patients, and the ability to involve them directly in their treatment. My patients' comfort and safety are also a high priority. My vision requires that I establish an atmosphere of trust with each patient.
During my time as an associate, my employing dentist installed digital radiography equipment. Within a few days, it became obvious that this new technology made a world of difference in the quality of treatment patients received and in their perception of that treatment. Not only did digital radiography improve our efficiency as a team, but it was a great educational and marketing tool. And equally important, the team was very excited about how easy the new X-ray system was to use.
However, something became very clear during the digital radiography implementation in this office. The practice experienced increased efficiency, which translated into more patients and increased revenues. I, on the other hand, knew that in my own practice the focus would be somewhat different because of my vision.
Instead of using the dramatic improvements to increase "throughput" by seeing more patients, I decided that the extra time I gained from my DEXIS digital radiography system would be best spent with my existing patients. While I do not have a problem with digital radiography improving the bottom line, that is not central to my vision. Getting to know my patients better, using that extra time to involve them in their treatment, and making them feel more comfortable is more important to me than increased revenues. (By the way, our practice's bottom line has improved without having to give up the service aspect that is so central to my vision.)
Extra time is not the only thing my digital radiography system gives me. I love teaching, and digital radiography allows me to indulge my passion for education. I recently discovered, by the way, that "teacher" and "doctor" come from the same root word, so there's a strong historical connection between teaching and providing health care.
Teaching and involving patients in their treatment is so much a part of my vision that I cannot imagine practicing dentistry without digital radiography. The large, clear images, coupled with the ability to enhance and highlight certain aspects of those images, show my patients exactly why I am recommending certain treatment. One patient recently commented, "Using digital radiography should be a rule for all dentists."
Digital radiography is also important to the patient comfort and safety aspects of my vision. My patients understand that their exposure to radiation is reduced by as much as 90 percent over certain types of film X-rays. And they appreciate the comfort of the small, rounded-edge DEXIS sensor in the same way they appreciate the warm blankets and eye pillows we provide to make them feel at ease.
In some practices, implementing the latest technology becomes almost an end in itself. To me, the important thing is not to be a slave to technology, but to make that technology my own. That's why technology and digital radiography remain focal points of my practice vision.
Cynthia K. Brattesani, DDS
Dr. Brattesani maintains a private practice in San Francisco, Calif. She was awarded the prestigious ADA Golden Apple New Dentist Leadership Award in 1996. She is an enthusiastic member of organized dentistry, having held positions at the local, state, and national levels. You may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.