When to Invest in the Newest Dental Technology

  • by Frank Conaway, DMD, MAGD, DMD, MAGD
  • Jul 9, 2018, 15:12 PM

One important lesson I have learned over the years is that I cannot always afford to keep up with dentistry’s newest trends. I am a techno-geek, and I love new technology. Over the years, however, I’ve learned that even though new technology may seem like a good buy — and I might even be able to afford it — I need to ensure it’s the right fit for my practice.

When in-office milling machines made their debut, I really wanted one. The ads made great arguments about the machine’s return on investment and how quickly the unit would pay for itself. I almost convinced myself it made sense to purchase the machine for my office until I spoke with a colleague and former classmate.

My classmate is very pragmatic. He pointed out how many crowns I could pay for using a lab versus the milling machine. He also pointed out how many crowns would be required to justify the machine. I quickly realized it did not make sense for my practice to make that investment. It’s easy to justify spending money on things we really want, and it’s difficult to apply real common sense to that purchase. 

I have a small practice with three operatories, one hygienist, one front desk person and one assistant. My wife comes in once a week to complete the business’ bookkeeping. My office is a low-production dental office, a fact I’m comfortable with and not looking to change. I normally only prep five to seven crowns in a good month. That is not enough to justify an in-office milling machine, no matter how badly I wanted to get my hands on that technology.

Another example is dental implants. I have taken a good amount of implant continuing education courses. I have received my AGD Fellowship, Mastership and Lifelong Learning and Service Recognition. I believe I am more than qualified to place implants, but my practice just won’t support cost of investing in the required equipment. I believe implants are the best option to replace missing teeth, and I tell my patients that, but overall only about a dozen patients per year choose implants as part of their treatment plan. Early in my career, a patient once told me that no matter how much I tried to convince them that a procedure was right for them, they couldn’t afford it. This patient encounter taught me a lesson that has been with me my entire career. I do my best to encourage patients to choose ideal dentistry but recognize that not all patients can choose that option.

The reality of having to live within your means, whether in a personal or professional setting, is not something everyone learns. I am grateful for the experiences that have given me perspective on responsible spending and for the friends that keep me grounded.

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