I am a full-time practicing dentist in Massachusetts and went through a period of burnout, regret, and resentment toward dentistry. It took years but during the long climb back to getting back to enjoying dentistry, I learned a lot about burnout, what causes it, and how to avoid it. I recently pulled this hard-won wisdom into my book, The Stress-Free Dentist: Overcome Burnout and Start Loving Dentistry Again. I don’t want any other dentist to have to go through what I did. But if they are, then I have a few encouraging words for you because trust me, I’ve been there and back.
YOU CAN DO THIS.
There are many reasons burnout in dentistry exists.
Some of the big ones are:
- The overwhelming amount of debt or overhead
- Lack of HR and business training
- The day-to-day exhausting nature of the profession
It’s important to remember to not give in to the false belief that dentistry is just a stressful profession and there is nothing you can do, or that this is the profession I chose and I’ll have to deal with the stress until I retire. No. This is no way to live and this mentality is unsustainable for a 40-year career.
There are concrete steps you can take to relieve pressure in these areas. For instance, one way to conquer this false belief is to invest in yourself, learn to deliver a new treatment or technology, and introduce it into your practice. Adding these new modalities, especially high-value services such as guided implant dentistry, sleep and airway treatment, 3-D printing, impression-less digital scanners, and/or clear aligners can create what I call the three R’s: Return on investment, Re-energize your staff, and practice, and Reinvent yourself.
This will be the fourth of a five-part series focusing on how one can rejuvenate their careers and overcome or avoid burnout in dentistry by adding some of these high-value treatments and technologies.
PART ONE focused on adding guided implantology to your practice.
PART TWO was about adding sleep apnea and airway treatment.
PART THREE was about 3D printing.
For this installment, we’ll focus on adding impression-less digital scanners to your dental office.
Optical impression-less digital scanners are some of the most impressive pieces of equipment on the dental market today. Most have gone away with the need for powder, are in color, capture images quickly, and are super accurate. I feel this technology has also made me a better dentist. Now I can scan the crown prep, blow it up on the big screen, check the margins, occlusal clearance, look for undercuts, and if needed, go back and re-prep and re-scan until I am happy.
I currently have an intraoral scanner and my staff and I love using it way more than the old traditional impressions. No more handling of dirty, contaminated, or bloody impressions. No need to pour up models or worry if one gets lost or broken. The file will be in the patients digital chart for you to access if needed. Even years from now.
I delegate so they can scan for night guards, bleaching trays, study models, surgical guides, and have them finish up some scans for crowns after I have captured the prepped tooth, margins, and occlusion. They are super fast with it, some staff are faster than I am and can do an entire arch in a couple of minutes. They feel very involved with the technology and I can hear them explaining the tech to the patients. This is great for culture. I couldn’t picture myself going back to traditional impressions.
Lab quality and turnaround time
This was the biggest hesitation for me. I was very comfortable and quick with a traditional impression and our dental labs fabricated predictable restorations.
However, now with an impression-less scanner, my crowns have come back with a shorter turnaround time. Instead of the traditional 2.5 to 3 week turnaround, now the cases are back in my office in 7 – 10 days. The accuracy of the cases has been even better than expected. The scanning software allows me to trace a tricky margin if needed and typically the cases require very little adjustment and hardly ever a redo. Chair time is less which means more production time to do other procedures.
All of our patients love the technology and are very impressed with the scanner. Most of them hated the traditional goopy impressions of alginate or poly-vinyl. Especially the gaggers who dreaded impressions. I first explain that “this is not an x-ray but it is a camera that will quickly take hundreds of images of your teeth and gums. And with its artificial intelligence, it will accurately reproduce your teeth and mouth.” They are super impressed and love seeing their mouth being quickly reproduced on the screen in front of them. I also allow them to use the mouse and manipulate the model after the case has been sent. They get so interested because it is their own mouth they are seeing right in front of them.
A gateway to more dental treatment
When the patient sees their digitally scanned mouth up on the computer screen, a lot of them will want to do more dental work, such as cosmetic work, or replacing old restorations with newer more esthetic ones. I will rotate the patient’s jaw around and show them the buccal occlusal lingual and bite views. We can see in areas of recession and root exposure, fracture lines, old amalgams, occlusal wear, etc. A lot of times a patient will want to improve on one or many other areas after seeing these optical images.
Return on investment
I actually consider the investment in some technologies as part of my marketing budget. I wrote about guided implantology, sleep and airway, 3D printing in previous installments. They all can be considered a part of your marketing. Your patients will tell their friends and family about how their dentist (that’s you) has invested and uses all of this cool technology and how you are a state of the art office. Why do we market? Most of the time it is to get new good quality patients in the door. Having these high-tech and sometimes expensive machines in our office is marketing in its own way.
Which one to get?
It depends. Especially if this is your first go around with impression-less scanners. Some systems are more open than others and some have hefty monthly subscription or maintenance fees. You need to figure out what you are going to use it for and how much support you need. Warranty can also be a big factor. Do your homework and ask your peers. Maybe go into their office and see it in action. The important thing when it comes to technology (especially expensive ones) is to actually use it. You don’t want it to become a dusty, expensive clothing rack that just sits in the corner.
A picture is worth a thousand words. A digital scan is worth countless words in my opinion. Like I said before, I couldn’t imagine going back to analog impression methods. It’s time to drop the goop and pick up a scanner. You, your staff, and your patients will thank you and wonder why you didn’t do it years ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Eric Block is a full-time practicing dentist in Acton, Massachusetts, husband, and father of two kids. He is on a mission to help dental professionals across the country overcome burnout and anxiety. He authored his first book titled “The stress-free dentist: Overcome burnout and start loving dentistry again.”
He is the founder and CEO of the marketplace website called DealsforDentists.com, which helps dentists save time and money by helping them find new customer offers from companies across the industry. He also interviews dentists and vendors on the Deals for Dentists Podcast and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.