iPad advances digital dentistry

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iPad advances digital dentistry

Dr. Ferencz (left) brings the iPad to his in-house lab to demonstrate an issue to one of his technicians. (DTI/Photo courtesy of Apple Inc.)
Apple Inc.

Apple Inc.

Tue. 8 March 2011


For Dr. Ferencz, the latest technology has always driven quality patient care. As an early iPad adopter, he knew the device could launch a new era in digital dentistry. iPad has become central to all aspects of the practice. In addition to simplifying patient forms and record-keeping, it enables the dentist to show his clients photos of treatment options. And his technicians refer to digital images on the tablet computer to create perfect-looking dental prosthetics.

iPad simplifies the record-keeping process for both patients and staff. Rather than designing, filling out, scanning, and then shredding paper forms, Dr. Ferencz and his staff have created a fast, efficient system using the tablet computer. Patients complete their intake forms directly on it using the Adobe Ideas app, and can even sign the form using a stylus on the iPad screen. From there, a member of his staff emails the forms into the practice’s database. There’s no paper and nothing to file. “It’s efficient,” Dr. Ferencz says. “With iPad, we save so much time — and space.”

And patients can stay productive and up-to-date with their personal lives during their visits. “If there’s any kind of wait before the appointment, we give them an iPad,” Dr. Ferencz says. “They can check their email, surf the Internet, read the New York Times — all the rich content that’s available on iPad.”

Putting the tablet computer into patients’ hands also helps emphasize Dr. Ferencz’s commitment to the latest and best dental practices. “It conveys a subliminal message that this office is up-to-date technologically,” he says. “So they know that we’re up-to-date in our dentistry as well.”

When patients enter the treatment room, the device takes on another role: communication tool. Prosthodontics deals with aesthetic and reconstructive dentistry, such as crowns and veneers. Dr. Ferencz’s challenge is to get patients to see what he sees, and to show them what he can do. With iPad, he can effortlessly display photographs and x-rays to patients during consultations. And using the Adobe Ideas app, he can annotate the images onscreen while pointing out areas of interest.

“iPad is ideally suited to this kind of visual conversation,” he says. “The patient and I can flip through the x-rays and clinical photos together, and I can illustrate my points as we go.” Because the patient has a visual idea of the procedure and a sense of what the outcome will look like, the result is a direct improvement in care. “With iPad, I can greatly enhance patient acceptance of my proposed treatment,” Dr. Ferencz says.

Helping him in the conversation are two iPad features that Ferencz can’t match elsewhere: high resolution and zooming. “The resolution is so incredible that I can see details I couldn’t on a conventional X-ray,” he says. Zooming also allows Dr. Ferencz to focus a patient’s attention on one aspect of the image. “To do that with your fingers is absolutely invaluable, compared to a laptop or a conventional display.”

Dr. Ferencz’s iPad use doesn’t end in the treatment room. Immediately after a discussion with a patient using the tablet computer, Dr. Ferencz might bring the device to his in-house lab to demonstrate an issue to one of his technicians. “On a dental restoration, the most effective way to make a correction is to show the photograph to my technician and say, ‘Here’s how I’d like you to reshape it,’” he says. “That way, we’re having a conversation about a clinical photograph, not a drawing or a diagram.” From there, the technician can get to work. “The technician just takes out an iPad, pulls up the images, and goes to work,” Dr. Ferencz says.

iPad is also a powerful, persuasive way to share images during doctor-patient conversations about treatment options. “On our first day with iPad, I used it three times to show patients X-rays and photographs of clinical conditions,” Dr. Ferencz explains. “And in each case the patient booked the procedure immediately.”

When he asked the patients whether the presentation on the device had an impact on their decisions, one of them said, “I trust Dr. Ferencz, and I would have done what he said, but the way the images appeared was just amazing. I had to schedule the procedure immediately.”

In a single day, the tablet computer paid for itself. “As a business owner, I think iPad is a no-brainer,” Dr. Ferencz says. “With its high resolution and ease of use, it has the ability to make a major impact on oral health care,” he says. And this is just the beginning. “I think we’ve just begun to scratch the surface with iPad applications,” he says. “It really is totally revolutionary.”

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