Dental Going Digital: Dr. Timothy Wahl on how technology is slowly, but surely revolutionizing the world of dentistry
Dr. Timothy Wahl is a periodontist currently practicing with University Dental Associates located in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Before moving to North Carolina, Dr. Wahl owned and managed his own practice in Melbourne, Florida for 27 years. In this interview, he discusses how dental technology has progressed throughout his tenure and how anticipated advancements may improve the patient experience even further.
Dodge: One of the foundations of health-care reform is moving from paper-based to digital storage systems. How has your practice progressed in this transition, and how it may differ from other organizations?
Wahl: Our practice is now 100% digital for all aspects of the patient’s records. A lot of practices are operating on both a print and digital level. Some aspects of their organization have gone digital, such as imaging, but the records may still be in print, or are in the process of moving over. I think the biggest setback for going digital is just the fear of timing. Most practices have a huge backlog of charts, and there is a real fear of it just taking too long to transfer each and every document.
Dodge: We know that dental and medical technologies are constantly evolving. For example, in the last ten years, we’ve seen cone beam technology, lasers and CAD/CAM come onto the dental scene. What advancements do you anticipate for the next ten years?
Wahl: The greatest advancements have been and will continue to be in imaging, diagnostics and computer assisted restorative dentistry. Recent advancements in cone beam technology for imaging have revolutionized diagnostics similar to MRI and CT scans in medicine. On the biologic side, advancements in regenerative techniques and materials will create more consistent outcomes, requiring less sensitive technique.
Dodge: Why is it so crucial for dental practices to embrace these new technologies?
Wahl: Practitioners are only as good as their diagnostic and technical abilities. New technologies are most useful if they provide the clinician a better, easier and/or more efficient way to treat the patient with similar or better outcomes. There are just so many advantages for implementing these new technologies. The practice is much more efficient, and employees have more time to dedicate to patient care.
Dodge: What advice do you have for dental practices that may be on the fence about going electronic?
Wahl: For those considering the move to digital records, give yourself a comfortable amount of time, maybe six months, to transition starting with uploading charts of each day’s patients. I would definitely recommend to go digital with dental images ASAP. The diagnostic quality is well worth it and having everything digital will greatly reduce time, staff energy and headaches associated with insurance billing and authorizations. Insurance companies are already requiring all attachments, images and supporting information be electronically submitted, so this is an easy way to comply and stay ahead.
The consumer will always seek out what is new or cutting edge. Dental practices should evaluate technologies based upon research evidence, success stories and the benefits promised to both the practitioner and patient.