I was recently involved in an online Q and A on intra oral scanners with a digital colleague, David Claridge. He is well versed in the current stats of adoption amongst our profession of intra oral scanners.
He shared with me and the listeners that the current level of adoption of intra oral scanners in dentistry is 8%.
I own and work in a practice where we have committed to digital. We own 5 interconnected iTero units where any scan can be retrieved at any time. Where reception are trained in digital triage. So that when a patient calls with an issue, a broken tooth for example, the receptionist brings up their scans and state that they are currently looking at their teeth on screen.
To commit to a thing you have to believe in it. To commit to a thing you have to dispense with the alternatives. When we committed to our first intra oral scanner 7 years ago I committed to throwing away and ceasing to order impression putty for the whole practice.
This is a powerful change management tool. Setting your boats on fire stops you rowing back. Like dietary change, if you don’t buy crisps then you won’t find them in your cupboard when the temptation arises.
When I think about the 8% figure I am a little saddened. Whilst I know that I am an outlier in a cohort of early adopters and innovators there are certain disconnects that ‘shout’ at me about our profession. I’m going to ‘shout’ them out here in the hope that pointing out with clarity the profound ways that digital is impacting my experience in our profession will be the trigger to others.
I’ll start with the obvious.
Digital (intra oral scanning) is not a passing fad. It is a concrete inevitability. It is to me completely evident that every room in every dental practice will use an intra oral scanner as the method of data capture for its patients.
NHS, private, orthodontic, restorative, periodontal. Diagnosis, treatment planning, digital design, analysis, evaluation. Automated AI powered screening of inflammation, recession, attrition, caries progression.
Machine learned analysis of caries, wear, perio, recession, tooth movement. Before a clinician puts their loupes on. Before a clinician picks up their BPE probe.
This is a concrete inevitability.
When computers became the expected norm for record keeping and patient database, paper records became a by word for an out of date practice. A practice whose record keeping was likely to be sub standard. Who had to rummage through shelves to find a patient record.
It drew a line in the sand between the old and the new. The modern and the out of date.
Do we see an analogy here?
So before I ask you to think hard about whether an investment in you and your patients is called for, whether you now see why you should be in that 8%, that 9% of the profession who see this future as clearly as I do and who recognise that a profession without these tools is out of date, let me paint one more picture.
Are we not a profession who believe in science? Who look to science to underpin all of our decision making? Whether it be diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment planning we lean on evidence based dentistry.
We look to published analysis of techniques. We understand that as new science emerges old beliefs form a bedrock for new beliefs that have built on and yet developed our thinking further.
We look to new materials. New techniques. New chemistry to drive us forward. Isn’t this how we’re built? Wasn’t this the reason we joined this profession in the first place?
The blend of ideas, innovation, agreed concepts, materials, technical know how, engineering and biology. And people. Patients we could help through combining all these aspects.
Yet here we are in an age where a machine has been created at a monthly cost that is eminently justifiable that could and will enhance every aspect of care. Visualisation, communication, record keeping, diagnosis, monitoring, treatment planning and dimension capture for restorative dentistry (otherwise known as impression taking) - and we resist.
We hold back. We remain entrenched in the history of our profession. The hard back text books. The 20th century ways.
Let’s remember our DNA. We are a profession that drives forward. That develops adhesive dentistry. Osseo integration. Guided surgery.
Let’s recognise right now that our patients deserve our wholesale commitment to digital.
Let the 92% start an orderly queue on Monday. Like when the world recognised the game changing power of the iPhone and queued outside an Apple store.