Lead Speaker at ICDE 2017 and DDS, Dr Lida Swann, Speaks About Her Views On the Growing Influence of Digital Dentistry

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Digital technology is bringing big developments to dentistry. How do you see the profession adapting to these changes?

All businesses have to cope with change at some point of their life cycle, especially if the aim is to grow and develop. Digital dentistry, and the need to move into this field, is given a considerable amount of attention within the profession, but when it comes to actually making the change each business will go through their own unique journey, some adapting more quickly than others.

There are numerous idealisms and theories on how to react to and embrace change, but one of the difficult aspects of managing change in many businesses is that one has little or no control. As a profession, it is our duty to help practices and labs deal with changing factors and the subsequent effect on their stakeholders.

How do you see the role of digital technology in the clinical world?

When we talk about digital dentistry we think primarily about CAD/CAM, the ability to design and produce restorations. We have now advanced digitally from producing single crowns to where we are today with full mouth and multiple restorations. In partnership with leading dental manufacturers, materials, workflows, processes and software have now evolved to allow us to do literally anything you can imagine.

Having been involved in the world of digital dentistry for over 10 years I have seen a lot of changes. What we’re seeing now is that the digital revolution is pushing boundaries for both clinicians and laboratories that can make almost anything possible in modern restorative dentistry.

Today’s dentists are adapting to change and embracing digital technology, and much of the apprehension around the accuracy of digital systems for making crowns, taking impressions or implant dentistry has disappeared. Today the placing of implants has been greatly improved by using this technology, making surgery more accurate, more precise, a lot less time-consuming and makes results more predictable.

Many are still reluctant to move into the digital world, what do you believe is stopping them?

Change can be scary to many people and learning to trust new technology over tried and tested manual processes is not always easy. If a surgeon has been performing successful free-handed surgery for 20 years, the thought of having to learn something new can be daunting. What if this new technology is better than me? Once these fears are overcome the benefits are clear to see.

Digital technology is not here to replace the dentist; it’s simply altering the role of the dentist and retraining them to accommodate a digital platform. We need to educate and encourage the profession in what can be achieved with digital from a business aspect; how efficient and predictable it is to implement from treatment planning to final restorations, therefore giving the ability to do more work and become more profitable.

How does the digital workflow help to improve communication within dentistry?

The evolution of digital in dentistry is an opportunity to provide more efficient methods of communication, especially in the relationship between the dentist and the technician. It’s no longer just a phone call to change or adapt, it’s now 3 dimensional, sharing virtual images on computers in real time, identifying challenges and finding solutions. It allows immediate feedback, and you can work with each other wherever you are in the world. The digital workflow, from start to finish, gives us the ability to share function, aesthetics, diagnosis and treatment plans for truly aesthetic results.

What impact can digital technology have on the the business aspects of running a practice?

First of all from a cost perspective, there’s an understandable concern about the initial investment in digital technology, whether this will bring a good return on investment and how to turn this into profit. Digital technology combines to make appointments easier, shorter and produces more predictable results. Learning to market this aspect to your patients allows them to understand the quality of your work and as word gets around, patients who want excellent service will soon come to you.

There’s also a popular misconception that bringing this technology in-house means you then have to do everything for yourself. You don’t! For example, I choose not to do in-house milling, despite knowing I’m very good at making my own restorations. For me it is more profitable and predictable to send my digital scans to the lab so I can concentrate on the clinical aspects of treating my patients and let the technicians do the job they’re good at. This frees up more time to see more patients and helps to build and maintain the close cooperation and relationship between the dentist and technician.

In your opinion, do today’s patients understand, or even notice, the growing influence of digital technology in their dental treatment?  

Digital technology is not just changing our relationship with the lab, it’s changing the relationship with our patients. I’m still amazed at how much more knowledgeable today’s patients are about dentistry and how they take on board the way modern technology is radically improving their treatment. Patients now do their homework so when they come in for their initial consultation they’ve read up on the dentist and the practice online, checked out the patient testimonials and the treatments you provide. They want the best service they can receive for their money and choose to go to the practice that provides this service.

How can we best educate dentists about new digital technology?

Unfortunately, it seems to me there is no systematic approach to educating the dental profession in relation to dental technology, especially in a market as large as the US where I am based. Some companies have taken this into their own hands and provide courses and online resources on the use of their products, but there’s not a single or focused approach to educate people to use digital systems to their full potential. With the exception of worldwide companies such as Ivoclar Vivadent and some smaller dental institutions, it can be a challenge to bring dentists together to learn in a systematic way. As a profession, we have a lot of work to do in regard to educating the profession about the digital future, and that is why events such as ICDE2017 are so important to share the vision of how things will change and how we can learn from and be inspired by each other.

In just a few weeks time you will be presenting at ICDE2017. Can you tell us what you will focusing on?

I’m really looking forward to coming to the UK in June to be a part of the ICDE2017 event and speaking alongside digital pioneer, technician Lee Culp. We will discuss the evolution from hand waxing to digital design, offering delegates a unique insight into the replication of natural aesthetics while focusing on proper function and occlusal harmony using CAD/CAM technology. Participants will learn a format for achieving that often-elusive goal of pleasing the patient, clinician, and technician alike with creative ceramic artistry and predictable restorative dentistry.

If you are looking to get ahead in the world of digital dentistry join Dr Lida Swann at the ICDE2017 on 16th – 17th June to hear about the endless possibilities in digital dentistry. Bookings can be made directly via icde.uk, or by calling 0116 284 7880. Places are strictly limited so book your place today to avoid disappointment.

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Dr Lida Swann DDS - Dentist

Dr Swann received her DDS from Colegio Universitario Colombiano and her Master in Prosthodontics from the University of North Carolina. She is currently the UNC Dental Implant Fellow where she focuses on implant research and applications of digital technology on implant placement and restorative procedures. Her educational focus is on proper tooth preparation and tissue management for CAD/CAM restorations as well as materials science with regard to cementation and restorative materials options. Dr Swann lectures nationally and internationally on CAD/CAM technology and other topics related to restorative dentistry. She has presented lectures for several dental associations, including the American Prosthodontic Society and The American College of Prosthodontics.