Adopting New Technology to Grow Your Practice

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by Dr. Ryan O’Neill

Colors show difference in airway volume before/after treatment

Imagine this: An asymptomatic patient is in your dental office for a routine checkup. No complaints. No concerns. All your routine diagnostic imaging and tests show no signs of pathology, degenerative disease, infection or chronic disease. Now imagine that same patient in your chair with cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) imaging at your fingertips. A once routine checkup now shifts to an in-depth 3D diagnostic appointment where your CBCT drives the conversation. Let’s face it. You cannot diagnose what you cannot see. And our Dentsply Sirona CBCT shows everything we need to know to treat our patients and deliver predictable treatment outcomes.

But…what about the risks involved in CBCT imaging? Are the risks worth the reward? Remote radiology reports allow clinicians of all types to be able to acquire large amounts of data without assuming large amounts of risks of interpreting that data. Companies such as Dental Radiology Diagnostics (DRDx) allow for thorough analysis of the CBCT data. More complete diagnosis will result in more referrals and a greater need to collaborative care between physicians and dentists. Most dentists are not accustomed to regularly referring to ENTS, Neurologists and Pulmonologists but implementing CBCT technology into a dental office with a thorough diagnostic radiology team driving the process is a recipe for success and broadening your collaborative network.

Combining CBCT and Intraoral Scan

One of the ways that our dental sleep medicine office, Sleep Nashville, accomplishes this is through the airway analysis feature of SICAT Air. This software can analyze before and after volume changes in our patients’ airways with different jaw positions. This really helps our patients understand how mandibular advancements devices, such as OPTISLEEP, can be effective at improving airflow. Our office does not use the scan to diagnose OSA, which is consistent with American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine guidelines stating that only a board-certified sleep physician can diagnose sleep apnea, but it is a great conversation starter with patients. The airway analysis really allows us to educate our patients on the need for a sleep study which furthers our collaborative efforts with local pulmonologists.

OPTISLEEP oral appliance

The cost of CBCT systems can be seen as a common barrier to entry into advanced imaging and can exceed $100,000. How do we justify such a large investment? The answer depends on the clinician, but for me in my dental practice, I analyzed the various services I was either already incorporating in my office or wanted to incorporate in my office. In other words, I wanted to do what I was doing better and start offering more solutions for my patients. Purchasing my CBCT in 2014 allowed me to add services to my office that without 3D imaging I was nervous to begin doing such as guided implant surgery, third molar extractions, and sinus augmentations. My Dentsply Sirona CBCT allows me to screen and educate my patients in a way that I was unable to before. Financially, it’s worked out well – the increased production generated by the conversations I start from my CBCT images justifies the monthly expense.

Think about that patient in your chair again. Maybe there’s more to them than meets the eye.