Throwing It All Away

Paul Feuerstein, DMD


As you go through the drawers and boxes, you bring back old memories and (unfortunately) think…that you can’t just throw things out since you might use them again….

This year has been a busy one, with many new and novel product introductions—and there are more coming in the next few months for even further tech overload. This column has been more product specific than usual; this time, we should reflect a little on what we are really seeing and what we really need. Every practicing dentist has an area in the office or home with stacks of boxes full of things that were used for a while and then forgotten about—or the enthusiasm for them was lost.

First there was the bottom drawer full of old instruments or some odd restorative material that you used for a while and someday might need to use again. Then it was 2 drawers, then the back of every drawer, and then an unused corner of a room that will someday become an extra treatment room. The big realization comes when you decide to move the office. As you go through the drawers and boxes, you bring back old memories and (unfortunately) think once again that you can’t just throw things out since you might use them again; they were just temporality lost. There is an old George Carlin routine on relating to your “stuff” as well as one I always cherished about things you find in your refrigerator. (If you are too young to remember these routines, they are worth a YouTube search.)

What am I getting at? I have moved 3 times from my original office. The first 2 times were for upsizing and the latest was for downsizing. During my first move, I did something brilliant: I put some “stuff” in boxes and labeled them “if you don’t open this box by January 1, do not open and throw it out.” Of course, when I moved the second time, those sealed boxes came with me. Moving to my next, larger office meant that I could bring all of my original boxes in addition to everything I have accumulated because there was a spare room. To get to the point, I had to downsize during my most recent (or my last?) move. This meant taking a careful inventory of those boxes containing my tech accumulations.

The first boxes held old computer parts: spare CPU fans, extra video cards, a few hard drives, cables galore, and all sorts of parts I had scavenged from failed computers. There were smaller monitors that were in working condition but had been replaced by larger ones. (I actually did properly dispose of the very heavy and bulky 17-inch CRT monitors earlier on.) Now for a word of advice—you must properly dispose of old computers (normally for a fee), but most importantly, you must wipe all of the data from old hard drives and backups. This goes beyond just erasing or reformatting the drives. There is a lot of personal patient information on those drives and, as you know, this is the real crux of HIPAA. Programs such as DBAN or other data “erasers” are available. There are also services that will totally erase hard drives for you, and some even give you a certificate of authenticity much like your hazardous waste companies.

Now it’s time for the next step. Since I have a smaller office and have the need to keep everything, why not get a climate-controlled storage unit that I could rent for just a few months? In this case, I will then, of course, spend a weekend going through everything. And since I have the new space, why not put all those boxes that said “do not open” in there too? That storage bill is starting to mount up as my spare time is diminishing.

So what has survived? The basic core components to run my high-tech office. Although I am mentioning specific products here, I must carefully state that this is in no way an endorsement of any product—just the few that my staff and I prefer in our own hands. The digital sensors and software were a must. The newest computers running Windows 10, as well as some excellent, sealed high-definition monitors from Exorvision, which are electrically safe as well as cleanable, came along. The newer intraoral cameras (Digital Doc [IRIS], DuoCam, and a few others), as well as a couple with caries detection fluorescence from ACTEON (SOPROLIFE) and Air Techniques (CamX). Other equipment I kept included my loupes and headlights, including the light that came with the loupes as well as a few nice aftermarket ones that clip onto my glasses or laser goggles. Of course, I also brought my 2 soft-tissue lasers: Picasso (AMD LASERS) and NV PRO3 Microlaser (DenMat). For shade matching, I carried in my Easyshade (VITA North America) and my invaluable EyeSpecial C-II camera (Shofu Dental). As I have reported before, this camera, along with my intraoral cameras, are used every day on almost every patient. For my operative dentistry, I could not practice without electric handpieces as well as my excellent Swiss and German air handpieces. They were more expensive than other products, but they have survived years of use. I must mention the Beyes Airlight handpiece from Canada, which has an ingenious air handpiece with a little turbine attachment that creates its own electricity for the light. Along with that came the Prometheus adaptor that similarly goes on any standard hose and has connectors with a little light generator. With regard to digital impressions, I will carefully state that I have 2 systems in the new office and am evaluating several others. I did bring a few different PVS materials that I still use as well as another one of my must-haves: Silginat (alginate substitute) from Kettenbach LP.

As I work each day, I think of something else that I have in that storage unit, but I am trying to practice with my bare essentials. To invoke the old desert island question, what do you consider to be the bare tech essentials? You can email me at or find me at the next meeting in New York City, Denver, Boston, Chicago, and so on to let me know.

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