By Shannon L. Pace-Brinker, CDAThe economy has most people, regardless of socioeconomic status, looking for ways to cut back or have more self-control on discretionary spending. We’re all faced with tough decisions — what to buy, what to put off, what to pass up. Wants suddenly give way to necessities. Money that might have been saved for a more esthetic smile, restoring a fractured tooth, or eliminating tooth pain might now be used to pay the utilities or phone bill. As part of a progressive practice that offers comprehensive care, we are seeing more often that the current patient focus has shifted from what was once cosmetic and elective to what is now basic and essential. But despite a continuing dismal economic forecast, we are using innovation and technology, particularly with the E4D Dentist System (Fig. 1), to overcome many of our patients’ economic concerns and continue to provide the oral health care that they not only need but also want. As both an empathetic practitioner and a small-business owner, my clinician has made the conscious decision to evolve his practice into the digital age because, especially in today’s economy, each patient experience becomes critical for continued success. In dentistry, time is money — for the patient, the team, and the clinician.
Fig. 1The E4D Dentist System is a comprehensive scan, design, and mill restorative system. It can scan in the mouth from an impression or off any stone model, without the application of a contrast agent. It takes just minutes to gather the necessary scans of the preparation and the bite registration material, and then virtually design the restoration chairside using DentaLogic™ software. Once the form and function have been confirmed, the data is sent wirelessly to a mill, where a beautiful restoration is fabricated right in front of your eyes out of a block of IPS Empress ceramic (IPS e.max CAD, Fig. 2). This exposes and educates your patients to what modern technology can offer in all phases of dentistry.
Fig. 2The E4D Dentist, which was designed with a team concept and optimized treatment workflow in mind, helps our practice reduce costs, increase productivity, and improve efficiency. The dental assistant plays a notably large role in this restorative solution. Assistants are encouraged to attend the included two-day E4D Elements training session at E4D University in Dallas, where they will learn to scan, design, mill, and finish the restoration by staining and glazing or polishing (Fig. 3).
Fig. 3Assistants can also enroll in the take-home office study Chairside Dental Designer program. This unique program gives motivated dental assistants and technicians the opportunity to gain professional recognition and establish credibility and proficiency in the many skills required in the modern dental office with CAD/CAM dentistry. Certification requires competency in CAD/CAM design, digital intraoral photography, finishing restorations, and exchange of ideas and information on E4D’s online ECOforum.Having the assistant take on such a large role frees the dentist to do more productive and clinically intense procedures, such as treating another patient, consulting, or a hygiene check, without sacrificing precious time during the day. As the doctors and assistants become more confident and proficient with the system, patient chair time is reduced. In most cases, procedures are just a single appointment; however, even reducing the turnaround time and temporary time from the typical two to three weeks to two to three days is greatly appreciated by all. Next time you put on a temporary, ask the patient if he or she would rather get the final in an hour, by the next day, or in two to three weeks, and you can easily gauge the patient’s true desire. There is also a reduction in production time per procedure, which equates to less overhead, improved efficiency, and greater savings. We not only have the ability to treat those who want a single-visit procedure, but also to come up with a plan that fits their budget and ours.The effective marketing, communication, and utilization of this type of technology — offering patients something they’ve never been offered before — sets you and your office apart. We maximize the involvement of the team, and provide services that fewer than 6% of the practices in North America can offer, all without compromising our ideals of form, function, and esthetics. And we can also better adapt to the economic and social needs of our patients. Author bioShannon L. Pace-Brinker, CDA and a 1994 graduate of the Dental Assisting Program at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, works with Dr. John Cranham in his private practice in Chesapeake, Va. She has been a dental assistant for more than 20 years. Shannon is the past president of the Metrolina Dental Assistants Society in Charlotte. She is also on the advisory board for the dental assistant program at Central Piedmont Community College. She is a member of the AACD and serves on its New Member Committee. She is also on The Journal of Cosmetic Dentistry’s editorial board. Shannon is the first auxiliary to sit on the AACD Executive Board. She is an evaluator for Dental Advisor and consultant for many dental manufacturers.