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Balancing the Digital Dentistry Stool | Chris Barrow

Balancing the Digital Dentistry Stool | Chris Barrow

The concept of digital dentistry is a three-legged stool. In no particular order, those legs are digital equipment, the tools used to make teeth; digital smile design, the way you treatment plan; and digital marketing, the way you get people in through the door.

I frequently speak about what is known as the ‘adoption cycle’. This is a bell-shape curved graph, and working from left to right you have ‘innovators’, ‘early adopters’, ‘late adopters’ and ‘laggards’. At the far left hand-side of the curve, you have the few people who are keen to try something new without any concrete evidence. The ‘early adopters’ are those who will try new things once some evidence of their success is made available, and the ‘late adopters’ will only jump on the bandwagon once solutions are tried, tested and refined. The ‘laggards’ tend to be those who are open to very little change, if any at all.

As a group, dentists are not brilliant at moving through the adoption cycle. The majority of dentists operate at the ‘late adoption’ stage of the curve, with the next largest group ‘early adopters’ and an ever-diminishing number of ‘laggards’. There aren’t, unfortunately, many dentists working in the ‘innovation’ phase either, although this is somewhat understandable – as trained medical professionals, they want to see clinical evidence of new products or technologies working effectively before they employ them in their own businesses. This does, however, make the process of innovation and development quite difficult in dentistry, as suppliers and manufacturers have limited options regarding who will trial their latest products.

Digital equipment

There is a growing range of dental technologies available on the dental market designed to facilitate the reproduction of natural-looking and functional dentition. Equipment has been advanced and refined over time to now produce clinical results of previously unparalleled accuracy and quality, enhancing the standard of dental treatment provided to patients, increasing their satisfaction and therefore helping businesses to grow. Technologies have also been developed to streamline the clinical and management workflows within practices, allowing more efficient daily processes for happier and more relaxed staff.

The umbrella term of ‘digital equipment’ now includes everything from milling machines to CAD/CAM software and 3D printers, but its place on the adoption cycle varies between countries. In the USA, for example, digital equipment is in the ‘early adoption’ phase, but the UK is slightly behind in the ‘innovation’ stage. This is an opportunity for the manufacturers of digital technologies in the UK and Europe to expand their market reach, and we will continue to see the arrival of more new equipment on British shores in the near future for this reason.

Digital Smile Design (DSD)

Here we start to get into the territory of Christian Coachman – a kind of ‘Photoshop on steroids’ for enhanced treatment planning. Once again, much of the developed world is currently moving into the ‘early adopters’ stage with regards to DSD, while the UK remains in the ‘innovation’ step of the curve. Deployment of the DSD concept may be somewhat slow here at the moment, but it offers huge potential for those who invest.

Digital Marketing

This embraces the lifecycle marketing concept that is now working its way through the dental arena. Following seven proven principles, digital marketing involves attracting new patients, encouraging them to return and encouraging referrals for new business from them. When considering Google, pay-per-click, adwords, search engine optimisation and effective website design, most dentists in the UK are probably towards the top of the curve, moving from ‘early’ to ‘late adopters’. Even the most cantankerous principals now widely accept that a practice website is necessary for the growth of a modern business. When you look at elements such as Facebook advertising, however, most practices will slide back down to the ‘innovation’ stage very quickly. This is a similar story when you consider CRM software, such as that available from InfusionSoft, and automated email marketing.

Don’t break a leg

It is essential for dental practices to look at all three legs of the digital stool in order to successfully adopt the concept and technologies and use them to enhance the patient service provided. This is particularly important for independent practices – corporates and large groups of practices will take more time to innovate and implement the changes needed as they have more management levels to work through. Independent, single practices have the opportunity, therefore, to get ahead of the game and distinguish themselves from the competition.

We at 7connections can provide any bespoke advice or information you might need to make sure you remain at the cutting-edge of dentistry, while also helping you optimise your business for maximum long-term success.


For more information about 7connections and the business coaching opportunities available, please call 01647 478145,

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