New technology — awesome or awful?

Editor’s Intro: Dr. Adam Davis assesses the true value of awesome technology in the dental marketplace. He advises to question, be critical, and seek counsel on new equipment and devices!

As doctors, we have expectations of ourselves. Our patients and referring doctors also have expectations of us. Endodontists are tasked with performing standard-of-care treatment and staying abreast of the latest dental technologies — many of which are expensive and challenging to learn. It is easy to feel pressured to keep up with the latest trends just as it is to lag behind them. How can we identify which of these emerging technologies are worth adopting, and which will only collect dust on our shelves?

Assessing the value of new dental technology requires focus on patient-centered outcomes. In endodontics, those outcomes are typically pain-free function and elimination of odontogenic infection. If a dental technology is advertised to achieve those outcomes more readily than you can currently offer, it is worth seeking supporting evidence and testimonials from trusted colleagues. If the technology is proven, and you are committed to rendering the best care for your patients, the logistics of affording and implementing it into your practice becomes secondary.

Reflecting on our specialty’s technological history, we can identify several key advances that have revolutionized our field. The standardization of hand files, the surgical operating microscope, nickel-titanium rotary files, digital radiographs, electronic patient records, and cone beam CT have all become staples of the modern endodontic practice. Vying to earn a position in that growing list, several technologies have emerged such as soft and hard tissue lasers, the GentleWave®, and X-Guide™. Leaders tend to be early adopters of these technologies. Our patients deserve that investment, and they certainly don’t expect us to hold steadfast to what we learned decades ago.

To that end, I believe that new technologies ought to be vetted by three critical questions. First, does this technology improve patient care for a significant portion of my patients? Second, is it reliable and robust enough to endure repeated use or have a reasonable repair cost? Last, will this technology increase practice revenue or strictly serve as an additional expense of business?

In a market where manufacturers and their catalogues compete for our attention, endodontists must decide which of the latest technologies are masquerading as progress and which are capable of delivering results. Patients expect their doctors to be technologically oriented. To meet that expectation, we must gather information, assess the technology both on its own merit and as it fits into our practice, and execute a decision. It is easy to fall prey to the inertia of our current success, but greater rewards come to those seeking to improve their practice in accordance to the times. We should view dental technology as an opportunity and not a burden. Question, be critical, seek counsel, but also be ready to move forward with new technology that benefits your patients!

Adam Davis, DDS

Dr. Ryan S. Facer and Steven L. Frost offer their guidance on adding awesome technology to the endodontic practice in a free webinar. See it here.

Adam Davis, DDS, graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Dentistry in 2001. He spent 5 years serving as a general dentist in the U.S. Navy. After fulfilling his active duty commitment, Dr. Davis entered the Endodontic Residency Program at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He received his Endodontic Specialty Certificate in June 2008. In July 2008, Dr. Davis opened Cumberland Endodontics with the goal of providing residents in the greater Nashville area with the finest endodontic care available.

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