Networking Computers In The Operatories
Dental Technology Consultants
I have discussed many times in previous articles the need for computers in the operatories. Besides being mandatory for the use of high-end digital systems like intraoral cameras and digital radiography, they also allow the office to become more decentralized by permitting many functions to be completed chairside, such as scheduling and insurance submissions. The underlying assumption in these scenarios, of course, is that all of the computers are connected together. The challenge is deciding how to accomplish this.
The typical method of connecting computers together is through use of Ethernet cabling, also known as network cables. The industry-standard cabling is known as Category 5, often referred to as Cat 5. The actual cables that have been in use for many years are Cat 5e. What’s the difference? Well, Cat 5 cable will support 10/100 Ethernet—that is, Ethernet (10 MB/s) and Fast Ethernet (100 MB/s). Cat 5e cable will support Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, and Gigabit Ethernet (1000 MB/s). Cat 5e cable is completely backwards compatible, and can be used in any application for which you would normally use Cat 5 cable.
If you want to ensure that your network is ready for future speeds, however, then I would suggest investing in Cat 6, as well as other network components rated for higher speeds: 1) a
Network Interface card, or NIC (look for a NIC that is rated 10/100/1000; most of the Dell computers that are now available come with 10/100/1000 NICs as standard equipment) and 2) a gigabit switch.
Although some people still refer to switches as hubs, this is not technically correct. A hub is a less intelligent device that passes information requests to every computer in the network. A switch, on the other hand, is a “smarter” hub—requests from a workstation to the server, for example, go directly to the server and back. Although the first gigabit switches were very expensive, you can now find 16-port gigabit switches for under $200.
In many offices, wiring computers is either not practical or else impossible. Many older buildings do not have drop ceilings or proper conduits run, and so installing them would not be cost-effective for the office. Also, many dentists want the ability to use a laptop or Tablet PC throughout the office. In these cases, the best solution is to consider a wireless network.
Wireless networking has improved dramatically in the past few years. The devices used to set up a network, either a wireless router or wireless access point, have become user-friendly to the point that even people with no technical expertise can still set up a wireless network. Wireless is certainly an option for any office, but there are reasons why I prefer wired over wireless:
Dentists should consider the pros and cons of the different types of networks, and work with a network specialist to properly install what will be the backbone of their entire technology systems.
Lorne Lavine, DMD is the Founder and President of Dental Technology Consultants. Dr. Lavine holds two prestigious certifications, the A+ Certified Technician designation and the Network+ Certified Professional. These designations demonstrate proficiency in computer repair, operating systems, network design and installation. Dental Technology Consultants provide dentists a full range of services relating to the implementation of technology.
Dr. Lavine can be reached at email@example.com.
Want To Know Your Future?
Look At Your Present
Recently, I was driving past a little shop with a sign out front proclaiming, “Palm Readings: Know Your Future.” The irony of it wasn’t lost on me; it wasn’t a particularly nice building and it wasn’t in a particularly great part of town. I wondered how many people quietly slipped in the front door each day in hopes of learning more about their destinies. Probably few gave much thought about why this so-called fortune teller hadn’t already amassed millions in stock market investments or already won the lottery if he/she could truly see the future. Why do business in a dumpy part of town next door to the payday lenders?
Too few dentists know their practice numbers and even fewer routinely monitor key practice reports and management systems central to their success. Most dentists have never considered writing a business plan for their practices. They want collections to be high but don’t know how to achieve it. They know they want to be busy but don’t recognize the difference between busy and productive. They want a “good” team but don’t know how to build one. Sound familiar?
When it comes to addressing shortcomings in these and other areas of the practice, far too many of you rely on emotions, maybe some tips from the latest dental magazine and possibly the fortune teller around the corner. Perhaps it’s time you sought a more reliable source for assistance. But don’t take my word for it, conduct your own assessment. Do you identify with any of the statements below?
You have holes in the schedule that go unfilled, yet patients must wait more than three weeks to get an appointment. You either don’t know what your patient retention is or it’s below 95%. Gross salaries are more than 20% of income. Overhead is more than 55% of practice income. Employee performance measurements don’t exist. Job descriptions are either non-existent or unclear. Staff conflict is a common distraction. Practice production has leveled off or declined. You are not enjoying your profession as much as you could and should be. Any of this sound familiar? If so, it may be time to consider a practice management consultant. But how do you choose a company that is right for your practice? Read on.
There are many consulting companies out there, so take a close look at those you are considering to make sure you choose the one that is right for your office. First and foremost, you want a consultant who has the expertise necessary to address the challenges specific to your practice. In addition, your choice should be someone with whom you can be completely honest. Otherwise, the investment will not pay off as it should. This person should be able to help empower your team to implement systems that will ultimately benefit the total practice. And this person should be prepared to effectively explain recommendations and the “why” behind them.
Talk to the CEOs of these consulting firms to ask questions and seek references, and contact those references. Do the consultants you’re considering have a reputable company behind them? Do they have the expertise necessary to address your specific challenges? Will they customize their recommendations to address your needs? Will they be there for you in the future to overcome hurdles that will crop up along the way? Do they offer other services, training and supplementary materials that can help specific members of the team? Can they explain to you exactly how they have helped other practices and show you the numbers to back it up?
Finally, will they tell you what you want to hear or will they tell you the truth? It is that last point that is the most difficult for all dentists. You’re likely not going to want to hear everything the consultant needs to tell you. But it is in listening that you learn and it is in learning that you can take the steps necessary to build a practice that you thoroughly enjoy. What’s more, you won’t need a palm reader to tell you your future—you will have created it yourself.
Interested in speaking to Sally about your practice concerns? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Interested in having Sally speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
Good Times In Chicago
Common Sense Dentistry
New, new, new. Dentists ask me all the time what is new and exciting in dentistry and I will tell you that changes are now happening in the industry faster than ever in terms of products, techniques and materials. How do I know this? Earlier this year I attended the Chicago Dental Society Midwinter Meeting, which I have been privileged to attend 26 times out of the last 27 meetings and even present at a number of times. First, cheers to the Chicago Dental Society, who is responsible for putting this meeting together. It has consistently been one of the biggest and most outstanding meetings that I attend every year. Second, many dental companies always premiere their brand-new products and technologies at this meeting and there was a lot of excitement this year.
My first stop on the floor was Trident Dental Laboratories because they always have some new and innovative products hitting the market. They have just come out with “Instyle Smile,” which is the next generation in the temporary smile category. It is made from a lighter material that fits much more comfortably in the mouth so that patients can try out a new smile before they get veneers or crown and bridge work. If you liked the original version of this product, you will absolutely love “Instyle Smile” (especially because it is significantly less expensive than the original).
My next stop was the Coltene-Whaledent booth. You all know Coltene-Whaledent for its excellent equipment and Parapost lines. You may not know that they make some excellent restoratives, which include two new products: One Coat Bond 7.0, a well-tested, self-etching adhesive, and DuoTemp, a light-cured and self-cured temporary material which is very easy to use and requires no mixing. It easily can be cleaned out before the permanent restoration is seated and will solve a lot of the challenges that we have when using temporization materials.
I continued on through the meeting and ended up at the OraPharma booth, the makers of Arestin. Getting rid of the bugs in the periodontal pocket is crucial to the success of any periodontal treatment and I am amazed by how many dentists I talk to that have integrated Arestin successfully into their offices. I always wonder why every dentist is not using Arestin in their office. Arestin is made up of small antibiotic microspheres that are pushed into a periodontal pocket with a very easy to use cannula. It really is a must for every periodontal treatment regimen.
When it comes to lasers in dentistry, you have to stop by the Biolase booth to see their new gold handpieces and new tips for the Waterlase MD, the hottest-selling hard and soft tissue laser in dentistry. I always tell dentists that it’s not if you get a laser anymore, but rather a matter of when you get a laser. As the public finds out more and more what laser dentistry can do for them, having a hard and soft tissue laser in your office to eliminate the need for anesthesia for many dental procedures will be an absolute must. Plus, I love using it because the patient is happy and comfortable and that makes my office look really good in her or his eyes.
I stopped by the ProDentech booth and became acquainted with a great new product that makes power scaling incredibly comfortable for patients. The new Pro-Select Platinum Piezo Scaler by ProDentech/Zila is the most advanced piezo scaler on the market with many creature comfort features, including heated water, great fiber optic illumination and the ability to irrigate the periodontal pocket with different solutions. Hygienists can really see what they are doing and the patients are very comfortable during the prophylaxis or scaling.
We have had a Pro-Select Platinum Piezo Scaler in our office for the last three weeks and the patient response has been incredible. Many patients fear coming to the office for a cleaning because their teeth are sensitive or else they haven’t been to the dentist for a while because their last cleaning hurt so badly. The Pro-Select Platinum represents a new era in patient comfort when it comes to prophylaxis and periodontal scaling; it is the most significant advancement that I have seen in this area in a long, long time. Zila is also the maker of Vizilite Plus, which is a must have for oral cancer screening in every single office.
Those are just some of the areas that got me excited at the Chicago Dental Society meeting. There are other areas that I will cover in future columns, but it’s time again to get excited about dentistry.
Dr. Louis Malcmacher is a practicing general dentist in Bay Village, Ohio, an internationally known lecturer, dental consultant and author, and consultant to the Council on Dental Practice of the ADA. Interested in knowing more about how to truly enjoy dentistry? Click here.
Interested in having Dr. Malcmacher speak to your dental society or study club? Click here.
To reach Dr. Malcmacher, email him at DrMalcmacher@thedentistsnetwork.net or call 1.800.952.0521.
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