Making the most of every patient visit

cliniciansAs current NHS dental standard operating procedures advocate that dental treatments should be completed in one visit wherever possible, Kasia Jawor considers how clinicians can maximise the potential of every single appointment.

The current dental standard operating procedures (SOPs) help the dental profession work within ongoing COVID-19 regulations. This includes the recommendation to ‘complete dental treatment in one visit, wherever possible.’ The rationale being that if contact between patients and staff is reduced, virus transmission between patients and staff will be lessened.

Along with so many of the new COVID-safe guidelines, this directive is causing dental practices to revise their own standard procedures and adjust treatment protocols. But as with so much of the general debate around the pandemic, the considerations for businesses are not solely concerned with transmission risk.

As businesses, practices need to recover financially from the enforced shutdown. Therefore dentists need to implement the recommendations while balancing the need to maintain a financially viable business.

Restorative procedures

As dentistry continues to reopen, the profession faces several new challenges. The first is to clear the backlog of patients who were unable to access treatment during the two-month shutdown. The second is to start to get routine attendance and more complex treatments back to some kind of normal capacity. Finally, and perhaps the biggest challenge, is to do this within the
remit of the SOPs issued by the Office of the Chief Dental Officer, England (OCDO).

Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), now allows for restorative procedures. The required fallow time of aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) are also being performed. Within these constraints the argument for digital dentistry is growing more compelling. Using conventional techniques has always been more time-consuming than digital. Now, with the additional issues of cross infection and decontamination there is more concern.

In contrast, there is the fact that digital dentistry can, in effect, be single-visit dentistry. Patients visiting the surgery only once and leave with a permanent restoration. Dentists are realising that digital dentistry simply makes economic sense.

Faster, more hygienic impressions

The first piece of the digital dentistry jigsaw is intraoral scanning – and Primescan is an outstanding example; a powerful and fast intraoral scanner that takes accurate scans of both arches in minutes and is easy to clean between uses. Users can choose between removable autoclavable, wipe-down or single-use sleeves. The unit and touchscreen have been specifically designed with cross infection prevention in mind.

Primescan’s digital impressions contain incredible detail and are viewable in 3D fully rotatable high definition images. The clinician can inspect every detail of the patient’s dentition, enabled by the accompanying software, so that the restoration can be designed to fit, first time.

The clinician has a choice once they take the digital impressions. They can send the scan to a digitally enabled laboratory. For single-tooth restorations, there are potentially lucrative chairside CAD/CAM options.

Single-tooth restorations in one visit

Dentsply Sirona’s CEREC technology enables clinicians to design and create single-tooth restorations entirely in-house at the same appointment. CEREC software and a chairside milling machine are all that the clinician requires to produce the restoration while the patient waits.

CEREC software has been developed to be as intuitive as possible. It includes a proposal function that will suggest a design for the restoration based on the intraoral scan. Rather than designing from scratch, the clinician can quickly adjust the proposed design to suit the individual case. The clinician sends the design straight to the milling machine that mills the crown, inlay or onlay, whilst the patient typically waits within half an hour. Some restorations milled in as little as five minutes.

From fallow to fruitful

Practices must leave fallow time between appointments. This can be up to an hour if involving AGPs. It makes economic sense to use that time to design and fabricate single restorations. Not only will it make use of minutes that would otherwise be downtime, but also allows practices to maximise revenue, by carrying out higher value treatments.

It’s also an attractive proposition for the patient. Practices can offer them faster, safer treatment, which means less overall time spent at the dentist and a more comfortable and convenient experience.

In the last few weeks, it has become increasingly obvious that we will be working within the constraints of coronavirus restrictions for several months to come. The guidelines will continue to change.

Dental professionals need to adapt to the restrictions and find ways to carry on their vital work. Simultaneously keeping both staff and patients safe and their businesses viable.

Single-visit dentistry, powered by digital dental technology, is one avenue that dentists can now explore and embrace. It gives patients a high standard of dental care in a faster, more hygienic way. As well as making best use of time and boosting practice income.


Discover how digital dentistry is working for Nikhil Sisodia and Martin Wanendeya, partners at Ten Dental by viewing their video at www.dentsplysirona.com/en-gb/explore/digital-impression.html#workflows. Book a Primescan digital impressions consultation visit www.dentsplysirona.com/en-gb/education/online-consultation.html#digitalimpressions.

To find out more about Dentsply Sirona’s extensive range of digital solutions please visit www.dentsplysirona.com/cerec. For a wide range of education resources, video tutorials, courses and continuing professional development webinars, visit dentsplysirona.com/ukeducation. Earn Dentsply Sirona Rewards on all your digital equipment solutions at dentsplysirona.com, all the solutions you need under one roof.

This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.

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