Over the years, I have learned so much about burnout, what causes it, and, more importantly, how to overcome it- including using technology to relieve burnout. In 2021, I pulled this hard-won wisdom into my first book,The Stress-Free Dentist: Overcome Burnout and Start Loving Dentistry Again. I don’t want any other dentist to go through what I did. But if they are, then I have a few encouraging words for you because, trust me, I’ve been there and back. YOU CAN DO THIS.
There are many reasons burnout in dentistry exists. Some of the big ones are:
- The overwhelming amount of debt or overhead.
- Lack of HR and business training.
- The day-to-day exhausting nature of the profession.
It’s important to remember not to give in to the false belief that dentistry is just a stressful profession and there is nothing you can do or that this is the profession I chose and I’ll just have to deal with the stress until I retire. No. This is no way to live, and this mentality is unsustainable for a 40-year career.
There are concrete steps you can take to relieve pressure in these areas. For instance, one way to conquer this false belief is to invest in yourself, learn to deliver a new treatment or technology, and introduce it into your practice. Adding these new modalities, especially high-value services such as guided implant dentistry, sleep and airway treatment, 3-D printing, impression-less digital scanners, and/or clear aligners, can create what I call the three R’s: Return on investment, Re-energize your staff, and practice, and Reinvent yourself.
This will be the Third of a five-part series focusing on how one can rejuvenate one’s career and overcome or avoid burnout in dentistry by adding some of these high-value treatments and technologies.
This article will focus on adding impression-less digital scanners to your dental office.
Optical impression-less scanners are some of the most impressive equipment on the dental market today. Most have gone away with the need for powder, are in color, capture images quickly, and are super accurate. I feel this technology has also made me a better dentist. Now I can scan the crown prep, blow it up on the big screen, check the margins and occlusal clearance, look for undercuts, and if needed, go back and re-prep and re-scan until I am happy.
My staff and I love using the intra-oral scanner way more than the old traditional impressions. No more handling of dirty, contaminated, or bloody impressions. There is no need to pour up models or worry if one gets lost or broken. The file will be in the patient’s digital chart for you to access. Even years from now.
I delegate so they can scan for night guards, bleaching trays, study models, and surgical guides, and have them finish up some crown scans after I have captured the prepped tooth, margins, and occlusion. They are super fast with it. Some staff are faster than I am and can do an entire arch in a few minutes. They feel very involved with the technology, and I hear them explaining it to the patients. This is great for culture. I couldn’t picture myself going back to traditional impressions.
Lab Quality and Turnaround Time
This was the biggest hesitation for me. I was comfortable and quick with a traditional impression, and our dental labs fabricated predictable restorations. However, now, with an impression-less scanner, My crowns have returned with a shorter turnaround time. Instead of the traditional 2.5 to 3-week turnaround, the cases are back in my office in 7 – 10 days. The accuracy of the cases has been even better than expected. The scanning software allows me to trace a tricky margin if needed, and typically, the cases require very little adjustment and hardly ever a redo. Chair time is less, which means more production time for other procedures.
Our patients love the technology and are very impressed with the scanner. Most of them hated the traditional goopy impressions of alginate or polyvinyl. Especially the gaggers who dreaded impressions. I first explain that this is not an x-ray, but a camera that will quickly take hundreds of images of your teeth and gums. And with its artificial intelligence, it will accurately reproduce your teeth and mouth”. They are super impressed and love seeing their mouth quickly reproduced on the screen before them. I also allow them to use the mouse and manipulate the model after the case has been sent. They get so interested b/c it in their mouth they see right in front of them.
A Gateway to More Dental Treatment
When patients see their digitally scanned mouth on the computer screen, many will want to do more dental work, such as cosmetic work or replacing old restorations with newer, more esthetic ones. I will rotate the patient’s jaw and show them the buccal occlusal lingual and bite views. We can see in recession and root exposure areas, fracture lines, old amalgams, occlusal wear, etc. A lot of times, a patient will want to improve on one or many other areas after seeing these optical images.
Return On Investment
I am considering investing in dental technology as part of my marketing budget. In other articles, I also write about guided implantology, sleep apnea, and 3D printing. They all can be considered a part of your marketing. Your patients will tell their friends and family how their dentist (that’s you) has invested and uses this cool technology and how you are a state-of-the-art office. Why do we market? Most of the time, it is to get new, good-quality patients in the door. Having these hi-tech and sometimes expensive machines in our office. This, my friends, is marketing with technology.
Which One to Get?
Well, it depends. Especially if this is your first go around with impression-less scanners. Some systems are more open than others, and some have hefty monthly subscription or maintenance fees. You need to determine what you will use it for and how much support you need. Warranty can also be a big factor. Do your homework and ask your peers. Maybe go into their office and see it in action. The important thing in technology (especially expensive ones) is using it. You don’t want it to become a dusty, expensive clothing rack that just sits in the corner.
A picture is worth a thousand words. A digital scan is worth countless words, in my opinion. As I said, I couldn’t imagine returning to analog impression methods. It’s time to drop the goop and pick up a scanner. You, your staff, and your patients will thank you and wonder why you didn’t do it years ago.
About the Author
Dr. Eric Block DMD, CAGS, FICOI, FICD, FAADS
Dr. Eric Block is a full-time practicing dentist in Acton, Massachusetts, husband, and father of two kids. He is known as The Stress-Free Dentist and hosts the Stress-Free Dentist Podcast.