It’s another day at the office when a patient enters your waiting room. There is an eager look on his face. “Can I help you?” Your receptionist asks. “Hi, I’m Marty Mcfly, I’m here for my appointment.” “You’re all checked in, please have a seat and someone will be out for you shortly.”
If you recall the classic science fiction movie, Back to the Future. Marty, played by Michael J Fox, travels in time to the year 2015. This brings us to today. Marty has come from the year 1985 and has chosen YOUR office for his checkup. What will he see? Will it be what he is used to? Will the technology in your office live up to the expectation 30 years of change can bring? Lets explore this change and discuss what is in store for Marty during today’s visit.
Your hygienist greets Marty and takes him back for his appointment. After updating Marty’s medical records electronically, your hygienist tells Marty “You are due for new x-rays today. If it’s okay we’ll start by taking bitewings before we begin. This is one of the best tools we have to detect cavities.” When the hygienist is finished taking the images, Marty assumes he will have time to update his social media, and takes out his phone. Looking up, he realizes that the hygienist is ready to begin almost immediately. “Wait, don’t you have to develop the x-rays or something?” He asks. Your hygienist tips him back stating, “With the technology we have today, it is no longer necessary. Now, let’s take a peek at your teeth.” As she is evaluating Marty’s hard tissue something catches her attention. “Do I have a cavity?” Marty asks. Instead of blindly telling Marty about this suspicious area, your hygienist has technology on her side. She takes out the intraoral camera, snaps a picture, and shows him exactly what she sees on the TV screen in front of him. “Wow that doesn’t look good. What is it?” Your hygienist replies, “Let’s explore a litter further. I am going to grab a special tool used to measure the density of your tooth.” She utilizes yet another new tool called a Diagnodent. This is a tool that uses special technology to help detect a cavity. “I’m getting a higher reading than I’d like to see. We will mention this to the dentist so they can evaluate the area. “ After cleaning Marty’s teeth, the hygienist notifies the dentist that she is ready for an exam. This is yet another new experience for Marty. The dentist presents into the operatory. “Hi Marty, it sounds like you have a tooth that we should take a look at.” He states. With a smirk on his face Marty says, “How did you know?” As the hygienist never left the room, Marty is in shock that he didn’t hear any yelling down the hall or the buzzing of traditional light systems. The hygienist explains to Marty that she uses OperaDDS, a communication system that allows the hygienist to page the doctor and brief him with all of the pertinent information before entering the op. The dentist and hygienist conclude Marty’s appointment and send him on his way. Marty is blown away by his experience; what does this mean for today’s hygienists?
Technology is changing at a rapid rate. In fact, it is changing so fast that some of today’s gadgets are viewed as futuristic. As technology continues to change, and improve, being a hygienist has never been more important. In a fast paced world where time is more crucial than ever, technology has allowed hygienists the opportunity to provide more quality to their patients. Hygienists can offer care that is more factual and proof driven than ever before. In the dental office, every second counts. Not only does modern technology allow us to work faster, it also increases accuracy. Utilizing modern technology and being able to see a patient’s abfraction on an image, rather than reading about it, is really what separates clinical findings. As with all change, typical responses to modern technology include hesitation. However, one could argue that the increased efficiency and effectiveness that technology has brought to the dental office can pose as enough proof that change is a good thing.
Technology helps in so many ways. Digital x-rays allow the ability to compare radiographs with little effort and cut back on the time spent away from the patient that would have been spent developing. This allows extra time for quality care to be given. Think back to a time when mentioning a patient’s needs used to involve persuasion. Intraoral cameras allow the hygienist to review suspicious areas with the patient, including that fracture line that was being watched. Tools like the Diagnodent allow an accurate assessment of areas that some dental instruments are unable to explore. Systems like OperaDDS make communication in and out of your office easier and more effective. This promotes confidence in your patients as well as in your clinical staff. With all of these technological advances, it makes one wonder where we will be in another five to ten years? As the first line of communication with patients, the hygienist’s role goes hand in hand with the advances technology continues to offer. This relationship takes us back to the future by the future allowing us to get back to quality patient care. Exciting, right? One could say the ways of the past are a road paving its course for the future. In the Sci-Fi thriller, as Dr. Emmet Brown would say “Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”