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New dental practice technology

Introducing new technology into the dental practice

The dental profession has benefited hugely from new technology that has been developed over the last couple of decades. Patient care has improved dramatically as a result, and some elements of our own workloads have been made easier to bear as well. We must not ignore that the patient’s expectation and demands have changed in the last 10-15 years.

But, as a profession, we need to recognise that all this technology has increased the differences between individual surgeries to an extent that we never used to see. It has also changed some of the skills that we need to possess as dentists. I do not believe that this development has been communicated effectively to patients, and it can lead to confusion over issues such as the cost and value of services we provide.

There is a growing need for the profession to educate itself about the technology that is now available. If we are to explain properly to patients how technology can benefit them we each have a duty to understand it ourselves. There should be an industry-wide approach to help everybody understand that patients need to have more information about how technology affects their treatment, its cost, and perhaps increase the perceived value of treatments.

From a layman’s point of view, it is easy to see how confusion over dental technology could arise. Patients will probably be aware that dentistry is regulated, and that every practitioner must meet agreed standards. But they might also assume that two practices charging very different prices are offering a similar level of service and patient care, and in this case they would be very much mistaken.

While some differences and the associated costs (for example those involved with a high profile West End office) by tradition might be obvious to the patients, others such as investment in the latest digital imaging systems, intra oral cameras or laser technology, probably won’t be.  From the dentist’s point of view however, there will always be the question of can we afford it?  Or can we afford NOT to have it and make it a priority?  How many times do we hear people or patients mention they cannot afford private dentistry!  The very same people are quite happy to invest in £10 to £100 per month for their smart phones.  Is there a child without a phone/iPod/Xbox?  If they can afford this, they can afford dentistry, perhaps they do not want to. It is all about perceived values and choices at the end of the day.

We would argue that perhaps there would be a significant difference in the quality of the dentistry provided too, because of materials and technologies, such as 3D digital scans and biocompatible materials, hard and soft tissue lasers coupled with reduced pain and bio-stimulatory and enhanced repair and regeneration aspects of Low Level Laser Therapy can contribute to the patient’s care and experience. However, that would not be recognised by the viewpoint that “a dentist is a dentist” held by some patients.

Part of the process of introducing all of this new technology into the modern dental practice should be to develop an industry-wide strategy for teaching and communicating to patients just what it is they are paying for. If this is explained effectively, patients can understand that they are gaining real benefits from these new technologies, and that practices have invested in them to improve patient wellbeing and eventual standard of patient care. Or, if price is the be all and end all of their concerns, they can pick the least expensive option. In either case they will be able to make an educated choice.

For example, on many occasions patients have indicated to me that they know of practices that will provide a crown for £250. To which I can only reply “What is a crown?” The difference between crowns can be huge, and quality can depend heavily on the type of equipment and materials that are available in the practice and laboratory. For the layman, there is not enough information to judge between two different crowns on anything but price.  However in reality, there is quality of material, use of lasers, CAD CAM imaging, scanners, laboratory fees, technologies and experience that can all have a factor into the price and ultimately the experience of the patient whilst in the chair and also after care.

Our practice has invested heavily in new technologies, with every acquisition aimed at improving patient outcomes, service and comfort. I sometimes have patients sitting in my chair for entire afternoons, but with the in-chair entertainment system they can relax and watch their favourite 3D movies or listen to music while they are there.  This same system can be used for patient education, and I have a link from my microscope to the TV screen so that patients can actually view live what exactly I am doing in their mouth should they be interested, while also explaining to them what it is that I see in their mouth or on x-rays after it has been magnified and identified. That represents a significant technological advance, because they are more comfortable and relaxed throughout their treatment as they can understand the treatment required and possible options available and why certain procedures are necessary for them, which they have been involved in deciding and consented to.

We have invested in a long list of hardware, software and devices to achieve further improvements. Digital imaging systems, digital X-rays, HD video and SLR digital camera including, intra oral cameras, NuCalm relaxation systems, microscopes, the T-scan, Photo Activated Disinfection, Ozone, the Nomad handheld x-ray and the Florida Probe, to name a few, have all found a home here.  It’s not uncommon for patients to comment “wow I can see what you see, I don’t need to be a dentist to tell its fractured and needs doing even though I am not aware of it in my mouth and its not painful.” This highlights the changing skills demanded of modern dentists.  Some of these technologies also have an added component for patients with OHI on tap with smart phone apps.  As well as learning to use all of this equipment, we must also learn how to manage and maintain it all on a day-to-day basis.

With so much technology available, it really does pay to use an equipment supplier with all the skills and expertise to assist you in every way possible. I brought a lot of my equipment from Clark Dental, including top-of-the-range A-Dec dental units, a digital microscope, a Nomad handheld x-ray, and a Florida Probe – the complete electronic probing and charting system for periodontal exams. Clark Dental’s after-sales service really is excellent. I particularly appreciate the fact Clark Dental not only provide outstanding customer service but that they also offer training by experienced, knowledgeable staff who fully understand the technology installed and how it should work in a dental practice, which is of vital importance when you are adopting any new technology or equipment. After all, understanding how to use the equipment you have invested in is imperative for any dentist in making the equipment provide a good return-on-investment (ROI) to their practice. 

Another area of technology I am particularly interested in is the use of dental lasers. I have been using lasers for many years in my dental work on a daily basis, and hold “Let’s Talk Lasers” seminars and training for dentists that have recently purchased lasers or are considering investing in one.  They are often amazed at some of the procedures that can be done when I show them, many buy it for just one thing and then realise there is so much potential and they walk away excited to go “play” with their new laser immediately – not to mention the crucial benefits it has for the patient, such as time saved, accuracy, pain management etc.

“A Laser is the most patient friendly technology we can ever buy” - Arun Darbar

However, I also travel widely, attending international trade shows and conferences to keep up to date with new movements in the dental field.  On purchasing a new piece of equipment we have learned to be very cautious and to read the small print when it comes to certain suppliers.

One drawback of investing in new technology is that it can be very expensive and complicated to maintain and service. It is not unusual to buy a device for £4000, only to find out later that we must enter into a service contract costing £700 a year just to keep it running. This can be a shock if we haven’t been informed prior to buying the equipment.  Always check for ongoing servicing and maintenance costs and consumables to add to ROI calculations.  As dental professionals, we can end up spending a lot of money on service contracts, yet not be entirely convinced they are all necessary. Of course, you have to accept the situation because we cannot service these devices ourselves and weigh up whether a certain technology/its investment are a right fit for you as a practitioner and your practice. We also have to be ready for the next new model or updates that may be released soon, it would be prudent to find out about this and get an agreement that any new model will be available as free updates etc.

Constant innovation means that new technology continues to enter the market all the time. For everybody involved in the dental profession – from patients to equipment manufacturers – it would be far easier to understand its benefits and opportunities if we were to communicate more effectively.  The key is to make the technology fit our work environments and don’t expect the technology to change our practices and do everything for us.  It may eventually change/enhance/excel the standard of care we provide for our patients, by us using the technology and not the technology using us.

As a final quote on this subject, “Just because we can afford to buy a racing car, it does not make us a Formula 1 driver”.  One needs to understand, learn, practice and educate oneself/be properly trained to be great drivers – the same goes for using lasers in our dental practices, for that matter anything new, be it material or technology, by being educated and learning the uses. This then leads to an excellent ROI. As with anything in dentistry, training and education in anything that we want to do properly is imperative!

For more information call Clark Dental on 01268 733 146, email or visit 

About the author:

Dr. Arun Darbar is a leading Laser and Aesthetic Dentist based in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire.  He has been using lasers in his private dental practice in the United Kingdom for over 20 years.  He holds Advanced Proficiency with the ALD, is a Master and an educator in the Academy of Laser Dentistry and serves as the ALD International Relations Committee Chair.  Dr. Darbar is an accredited member of the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and serves on their credentialing committee and as an examiner.  He has won numerous awards including the 2010 Smile Award of the Year, Patients smile 2011 and 2012 along with the Best Whitening case 2012 organized by FMC, an international publishing and media company.  He is an avid lecturer on lasers in dentistry worldwide.

For more information on his upcoming “Let’s Talk Lasers” seminars, contact Smile Creations Dental Innovations® at 01525 383065, email: or visit their website at