Adopting New Technology in the Dental Practice

James V. Anderson, DMD, Founder and CEO
James V. Anderson, DMD, Founder and CEO
eAssist Dental Solutions

Principle #8, of the Toyota Way, discusses using only reliable, thoroughly tested technology that serves your people and the processes.

This article represents the eighth in a series of articles discussing the 14 Management Principles from The Toyota Way  https://thetoyotaway.org/ a book authored by Jeffrey Liker. The principles illustrated in Toyota’s management systems can be applied to improving the efficiency in dental practice operations.

How does Principle #8 of the Toyota Way relate to the clinical, business world of the average dental practice?
The role of new technology for a dental practice must be flexible in the introduction. It is finding the method that supports the team in adaption so that it enhances the team and the system that the technology is intended to improve. Working with the end in mind is taking into consideration how the patient is benefitted from the newer technology. Pushing new technology into an existing way of doing things and forcing it to work causes confusion, frustration, errors, and inconsistency to the systems it is supposed to improve.

The Toyota Way states that proven processes that result in success take precedence over new, untested technology. It is essential to test new business processes or dental products and equipment before adopting the technology into your business.

The Toyota Way suggests introducing new technology slowly and to understand what system or product the technology is replacing and why. When you are doing things "the old way" you see that it works, but you must be able to see the better in a new way. For instance, you can dig a big hole by hand with a shovel, but it will take less time if you use a bulldozer. To see the research on products or services considered for your dental practice, find the experts for their research and results.

One of the respected members of the dental community whose business is to test new products and services is Dr. Gordon Christianson, www.cliniciansreport.org who for forty years has provided dependable, unbiased research in his “Clinicians Report.”
The ADA Standards Committee on Dental Products (SCDP) develops standards for dental materials, oral hygiene products, infection control products, dental equipment, dental instruments, CAD/CAM, and more. See https://www.ada.org/en/science-research/dental-standards/dental-products. To purchase an ANSI/ADA standard, technical specification, or technical report, please visit the ADA Catalog.

In one of my practices, we experienced a return of patients with tooth sensitivity after placement of a newer resin composite filling material. We found that the "depth of cure" instructions for this resin were not followed. It is essential to have all staff trained, including associate doctors, when a new product is introduced to an established system.

If the team understand the big picture of the practice goals, they can be more open to the prospect of change and learning newer methods.

Invite your team to provide feedback about the new product or service and their ideas as to how to implement change to the rest of the group. Schedule informal training that combine education with socialization.

Technology is there to support and improve not replace people. Currently, machines haven't replaced warm and caring customer service or clinical excellence at chairside. Technology must provide tools to do the job more efficiently and increase the chances of a better result.

Encourage your people to consider more modern technologies when looking into new approaches to work, especially when it can be proven to increase the schedule and flow of patients throughout the practice.

A system for introducing new technology to your practice would include these questions:

  1. Does modern technology support your core values, vision, culture and practice mission?
  2. How would the newer technology and systems provide value product or services to the patients?
  3. How would the existing workflow be affected by the application of the new technology?
  4. Will the new technology work in harmony with the existing product or service?
  5. What is the value statement to the patient regarding the newer technology?
  6. What are sources available to train my team to embrace the newer technology?
  7. How do I ensure that the team will continue to utilize the new way fully and not revert to the old way?
  8. How do I keep the ball rolling as newer technology comes on the scene to replace what we have?

Examples of newer technology and more is on the way:

  • Cerec /CAD-CAM technology that provides "same-day crowns" and other products
  • Intraoral scanning for digital impressions to increase accuracy
  • Photos, extraoral and intraoral, videos and 3D digital mockups for patient education and treatment planning
  • Cone beam technology and CAD-CAM integration
  • CAE Computer-Aided Engineering for accurate digital dentures
  • Implant systems geared for the general practice for smoother surgical and placement application
  • 3D Milling and digital restorations
  • Laser Dentistry

An example of how new ways of doing things make a practice more efficient, take, for instance, Ergonomic Products' RapidCarts at http://www.Ergonomic-Products.comrts. Use a cart system to move the equipment from one room to another, reducing costs by not duplicating high-tech equipment.

You don't need an Apex Locator, Air Abrasion, or Implant Drivers in every room. The cart will move these expensive and infrequently used items on demand. The cart creates room flexibility because you don't have to have a designated place for a root canal or other specialty. Within seconds, you can wheel in an Endo setup and be ready to go – without having to move your patient to another room.

New techniques, products, and services can provide us with more efficient and better ways of doing things only if they have been thoroughly tested and adequately integrated into the fabric of the practice and the team.

If you would like additional help, email Dr. Anderson at james.anderson@eassist.me