Where is dentistry heading? It’s a question we see a lot because new developments in technology seem to come more rapidly than ever. There’s a fear that technology will replace the role of dentists in the future, but in an interview Kirk conducted with Dr. John Cranham and Lee Culp, CDT, we learned that there will always be a place for dentists. Though artificial intelligence and robotics will play an increasingly larger role, we will always need people. However, if you want to stay relevant in the future of dentistry, you need to adopt digital technology.
What Does the Future Hold?
According to Lee, robotics and AI are absolutely going to come into dentistry in the future—they can’t do everything today, but that ability is coming. The idea of robots doing dentistry may seem too far-fetched to be true, but every time someone says that something can’t be done, it’s usually done. Dr. Cranham and Lee envision a future where particularly math-heavy procedures—such as creating dentures—are done with the push of a button. And while that may feel like eliminating the human element, it’s important to remember that advancements in technology still require the presence of people. Dentists aren’t going to go away, but their jobs will be different in the future. One of the most rewarding aspects of dentistry is that we always have the opportunity to change, evolve, and get better—AI and robotics are just the next step. Consider how your job has changed since you first began dentistry—if you’ve been in practice for ten years, for example, think of the advancements you’ve seen in that time alone. Your job wasn’t eliminated, but you learned to adapt and do things differently.
Better Communication Through Digital
So how can we prepare for the future of dentistry? If you ask Dr. Cranham and Lee, they’ll tell you, “Live digital every day.” Not only will digital technology help you better adapt to the future, but it will also help you in the present. People often think that digital is only about making things, but more than anything, digital dentistry is about communication. The ability to build virtual patients and then coordinate with dentists around the globe to diagnose and treatment plan those patients was previously unthinkable but are now a possibility.
Even on a smaller scale, digital dentistry gives practices the capability of communicating their needs to a lab and receiving results much more quickly. Dr. Cranham noted that it once took weeks to send measurements and receive models from the lab, but by utilizing digital scanning and printing he’s able to accomplish it in just two days, and sometimes less, with models that are more predictable and accurate than could ever be done by hand. The key factor is the ease with which the dentist and the lab can communicate. As Kirk says, “Your ability to communicate is going to determine how far you’ll go in dentistry,” so embrace digital technology and let it help you communicate more effectively.
Where to Begin?
Making the change to digital can be overwhelming, so it’s important to start simple:
- Start with a scanner and learn how to scan for simple crowns.
- Find a software that you can do something with.
- Consider getting a printer if you want the ability to make your own models.
It’s clear at this point that digital is not a fad—it’s here to stay and will only become more important in the years to come. If you learn to adapt and embrace it, your practice will see great improvements—predictability, efficiency, and profitability are so important to successful dentistry, and digital will make them go through the roof in your practice.
If you’re looking for further assistance in adopting digital dentistry, check out Cranham Culp Digital Dental, where Dr. Cranham and Lee are seeking to create a community of quality-oriented dentists with a passion for a digital framework. They will provide you with the education you need to become a better digital dentist and empower you to grow your practice into the future. And as always, reach out to the ACT team for assistance in how to implement these new ideas into your practice—let us coach you into a future of a Better Practice, and a Better Life!