Why Dentists Are Late Adopters of Technology
Posted Feb 09, 2012, Published 2012-02-01
Technician-turned-dental student Eric Nunnally details why dentists are so apprehensive about new products and procedures-and what you can do to help them get on board.
When it comes to new porcelains, substructures, materials, impression trays...you name it, I've heard this statement countless times from technicians: "Why won't our doctors try this new product? If they would just give it a chance, they would see how great it is!"
While I only have seven months' experience as a clinician, the reasons why most dentists are so late to adopt--or even try--new technologies are becoming increasingly clear. I'm even experiencing the apprehension of being an early adopter of new procedures and products myself.
Here's what I've learned so far:
Dentists are taught to practice evidence-based dentistry. Because of the number of new materials and techniques on the market today, many dentists are insisting on documented evidence of their success and effectiveness. And when they say evidence, they mean lots of evidence and from multiple, non-biased sources. Sometimes dentists want to see 10- to 15-year studies to ensure a product is a reliable option for them and their patients.
Dentists aren't risk-takers. A "follow-the-leader" mentality exists in any industry, but I'm finding that it's prevalent in dentistry. Let someone else put in the time as an early adopter to learn what works and what doesn't--then I'll use his experience and information to better my business. It makes sense.
When a dentist has a patient in the chair, it's very difficult to try new techniques and materials. Why? Because he will be responsible for the outcome and going out on a limb with a new product has a lot of risks. The thought of treatment failures, loss of patients and adverse effects on reputation--not to mention the possibility of lawsuits--are fearful prospects.
Dentists ultimately have two goals: provide patients with quality care they're happy with and, at the same time, make a profit doing so. So, in the end, he wants to use the product or technique he's confident will work.
Dentists are taught to be very conservative with treatment. While my school promotes certain modern products, I can see a trend: the faculty favors systems with long track records of success, especially in the hands of a student. Again, patient care is the first priority.
When it comes to my clinic patients, I'm so concerned about providing quality care that I'm not willing to take any risks. When I see a patient who needs a posterior crown and shows any signs of premature tooth wear, I might think about using a PFM or zirconia crown but opt for a gold crown because it has a longer history of use and proven clinical track record.
For posterior direct restorations, I use amalgam because data indicates this is the best option if esthetics aren't a primary concern. I know my mentality may change with time and I hope to be at the forefront of technology in private practice, but I do understand the "late adopter" thinking and why some dentists never get away from this rationale.
What You Can Do
Not all dentists are hesitant to try new things--many are early adopters and a handful are true pioneers. I think a lot of it comes down to the confidence they have in the lab they use. Take a look at your relationships with your clients: Do they perceive your lab to be sophisticated and knowledgeable? Do they trust you? If so, that's half the battle.
Here are some other ways to help your clients overcome this cautious mindset and embrace new products and techniques:
Provide good hard data about the products in practice. In addition to sharing information on strength and other physical properties, explain how a new product is superior to the current product the dentist is using. Some key questions to answer: does this material last longer? What improvement will the dentist see? Will the patient be happier? Will the dentist be happier? Do the restorations look better? Are they kinder to opposing dentition, antibacterial and contribute to healthy gingiva? And maybe most importantly, do you have "proof"?
If there's no track record for the brand you provide, offer comparison data to show how your system is as good or better. Also, consider offering an extended warranty to show the dentist how much you're willing to stand behind the product.
Promote the specific advantages of the new products and their clinical indications. By providing this type of information, you can be a great resource to your clients and help them adopt new technologies at a faster pace. Consider providing an at-a-glance handout or chart that specifies products, indications and contraindications, and advantages. This would be an extremely useful tool for treatment planning and writing lab scripts; personally, I know I'd use it.
Know your clients' needs. To get dentists to successfully adopt a new product, it must do one of the following:
If a product doesn't address one of these areas, your clients have no incentive to take it on. For instance, when I was a working technician, a client asked me why he should consider buying a digital impression system. I told him he could get his remake percentage down to nearly zero and drop in crowns with minimal chair time spent adjusting occlusion. His response?: "We're proficient at the way we do it now. I don't spend much time adjusting crowns and I don't pay for my remakes--the lab does. Why would I pay for the machine and scanning fees for the little benefit I would get in return?"
Since a digital impression system didn't do any of the four things I mention above, my client had no motivation to switch. Lesson learned: understanding your clients' needs will help you determine which new products and techniques best fit their practices and make it more likely for them to be adopted.
Editor's Note: If you have a question or concern you'd like Eric to address in a future column, please e-mail Kim Molinaro at kim@LMTmag.com, or contact Eric via The BRIDGE on LMTmag.com.
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