Open to Change

By Laura Thill

With the help of their sales reps, general dentists can offer more restorative procedures.

General practitioners today have the opportunity to perform restorative procedures that at one time were considered niche services. Composites, crowns, implants, extractions, bone augmentations and more have become routine procedures for many general dentists. Some, however, have been held back by the cost of new equipment, the need for training and education, and a tendency to resist change.

“As we see super GPs following in the specialists’ footsteps, the greatest technologies being adapted by today’s top GPs are cone beam computed tomography (CBCT), lasers and ceramic ovens,” says David Rice, DDS, the owner of a team-centered, restorative and implant practice in East Amherst, N.Y., and founder of student and new dentist community, igniteDDS. “Savvy GPs want to see everything – both diagnostically and in the treatment equipment. They also want to have total control of hard and soft tissue via lasers, as well as the ability to tweak their final ceramics to ensure delivery happens as planned and to perfection.”

When today’s practices incorporate 3D imaging/Ceph, microscopes and CAD/CAM equipment as the standard of care, they design the physical space to accommodate it, says Patrick Montagna, senior product manager at Benco Dental. “They adapt equipment maintenance, adjust patient treatment plans and build in opportunities for staff training sessions with coaches,” he says.

Barriers to entry
“The biggest barriers to entry – real or perceived – are cost and fear of change,” says Rice. “Although many dentists educate their patients about value over cost, they seemingly have a hard time living that lesson themselves. Take CAD/CAM and scanning, for example: Many dental practices could easily introduce a fully digital solution from scan to design, to same-day delivery. With that, many still choose scan-only or more traditional options. Although they generally recognize the value of the service, they are sometimes put off by the cost.” And – perhaps as a force of habit – they often prefer to rely on their lab, he points out.

“Dentists are examining the cost of cone beams, scanners, mills and furnaces, as well as accessories, such as milling blocks, sprays and powders, because they have not always seen a return on investment,” says Paul Jackson, director of merchandising at Benco Dental. “In addition, they may be reluctant to purchase the wrong equipment, or unsure of how to integrate the new equipment in their practice. For instance, a dentist may need to change prep design or adjust impressioning techniques, as well as revise staffing needs and patient scheduling, to accommodate new procedures and equipment.”

“With regard to scheduling, today’s GPs require additional time, as they now can take procedures from start to finish in a single appointment,” says Rice. “To that point, often there is no follow-up for insertion on indirect restorative procedures.  On the billing side, as many procedures now can be completed in a single appointment, collecting payment on the day of service – rather than over time – becomes critical to maintaining a healthy accounts receivable.”

That said, it’s becoming increasingly important for sales reps to act as consultants to their customers. Sales reps must be “master communicators,” who take the time to learn what each individual dental practice needs, and then deliver the solution that best meets those needs, notes Rice. “The reps that come to my practice do several things that set them apart,” he explains. “Primarily, they understand what I value most and they speak to me accordingly. Too many reps today deliver the same pre-planned speech to every clinician and forget we are all different. The speech needs to be customized. Doing so permits dentists to see the true value to their practice, and their fear of change melts away.”

As technology, speed and efficiency continue to drive restorative dentistry, sales reps and their customers must continue to adapt. “Moving forward, it will become increasingly important to implement technology that allows for greater efficiency and an even better patient experience,” says Rice. “Technology can be a valuable tool to enhance the patient experience, but it requires dentists to adapt to change and integrate new equipment and a new process into their dental practice.

“We also see a possible paradigm shift where technology will change the way dentists work with their labs,” Rice continues. “We believe technology will continue to allow dental professionals to connect and collaborate with labs more efficiently and accurately, with tremendous clinical benefits.

“In short, GPs must be open to change, adapt to new technology and processes, and always strive to learn,” says Rice. To a large extent, their success will depend on how well their sales reps guide them.

Restorations in the general practice

Restorative procedures are increasingly making an appearance in the general dental practice. Some of the more common procedures include:

  • Fillings and repairs (inlay/onlay).
  • Root canal therapy.
  • Crowns (both posterior and anterior) and bridges.
  • Implants
  • Extractions/bone augmentation.
  • Composites (including single posterior, anterior and posterior quadrant).

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