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dental hygienists will get more patient time when they embrace technology

No scan, no exam: How embracing technology changes a dental practice

Oct. 24, 2023
From improved staff satisfaction to better patient engagement, implementing new tech in your dental practice is worth the challenge.

Throughout my career as a hygienist and now as a territory manager of hygiene support for Aspen Dental in Kentucky, I’ve seen firsthand how drastically new technology can change the day-to-day operations of a dental practice. Artificial intelligence-enabled tools can improve workflows, while the introduction of intraoral scanners can enhance treatment accuracy and strengthen trust between patients and providers. 

New technology can have enormous benefits, but implementing new processes comes with challenges. Hygienists are on the frontline of patient care when it comes to innovative technologies, so it’s especially important that we take time to familiarize ourselves with new workflows so we can provide the best possible patient care. When we take advantage of cutting-edge technologies, we can reap the long-term benefits, such as greater staff satisfaction, enhanced patient engagement, and overall improvement of patient care.

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Technology's role in patient care, workflow, and profitability

Lower administrative load = higher staff satisfaction

It can be difficult to switch from the processes and technologies we know to something entirely new, and it’s not at all unusual to want to stick with what’s comfortable. However, pushing ourselves to embrace new technology can ultimately make our lives much easier. We chose to be hygienists because we want to help patients, and until recently, that meant tackling quite a bit of administrative work. 

With new technology such as the Digital Dental Assistant used in Aspen Dental practices, hygienists can simply speak into a microphone as they perform their periodontal exams. Those vocal commands are then translated by an AI interface directly into notes in the patient’s chart. This eliminates the need for a dental assistant to break away from their task or can even allows them to get the next patient started. 

The Digital Dental Assistant helps hygienists focus on the patient instead of the computer and reduces the possibility of cross-contamination from keyboards. With a lighter administrative load, hygienists can interact more openly with patients, which inevitably leads to greater patient engagement.

Advanced imaging enhances patient engagement

Aspen Dental practices have a “no scan, no exam” policy. Intraoral scanners help us reveal to patients exactly what’s going on in their mouth instead of simply telling them. Seeing is believing, and when we can easily show patients any issues they have, we not only educate them, but we also increase treatment acceptance and take away some of their dental fear. 

It may seem counterintuitive that the introduction of more technology can enhance face-to-face interactions, but that’s exactly what we’re experiencing. By not having to ping-pong our attention from screens to keyboards to patient, we can focus entirely on our connection with the people in our chairs. We can be more present with them, personalize their care, and treat them as people instead of numbers.

Tech-enabled efficiency improves overall care

From the Digital Dental Assistant to intraoral scanning, new technologies help hygienists provide care that’s more personalized, more accurate, more convenient, and less invasive. The Digital Dental Assistant improves the accuracy and completeness of clinical records, leading to more efficient care. Technologies such as intraoral scanners help bolster the provider-patient relationship, build trust, and educate patients. These are just two examples of the technology hygienists can use to provide the best possible patient care. 

Introducing new technologies into day-to-day patient care can be intimidating. Extensive hands-on training, support, and continuing education courses streamline the implementation process. Aspen Dental is committed to not only adopting the latest technologies, but also providing top-notch support and training so hygienists feel comfortable implementing these new processes into their daily operations.