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4 Software Options for Digital Dental Radiography

Charles Settles

Posted on November 24, 2014

An ever-increasing number of dentists are making the shift to digital dentistry. The decreasing cost of digital imaging technology is making the dream of a “paperless office” a reality.

Dental imaging has come a long way since early experimentation with vacuum tubes in the 19th century. The desire to avoid the cumulative effects of radiation has sparked continued innovation in the field of dental radiography, culminating in the imaging sensors or phosphor plate systems available today from vendors like Carestream, Gendex, Dexis, and several others. Digital radiography provides certain advantages and drawbacks when compared to traditional dental radiography, but an increasing number of dentists are making the switch.

When asked reasons why they switched or were considering a switch to digital radiography, dentists interviewed by TechnologyAdvice had various points, many of which were shared. Most cited the reduced radiation giving them peace of mind as opposed to traditional panoramic or full-mouth series x-rays. Others mentioned the ease with which digital images could be enhanced or manipulated for better diagnostic results. Some thought CMOS intraoral sensors were the best investment; others felt phosphor plate digital radiography was a better option for their needs. Regardless of what sensor type or manufacturer, all the dentists surveyed said integration with a dental software system was a large factor in their decision-making process.

There are many things to consider when purchasing software for dental practice management or electronic patient records. Dental imaging integration is only one factor—albeit an important one, as new individual sensors can cost $5000 or more. Used intraoral sensors available on eBay—yes, you read that correctly—range from $338 to nearly $6000, in a mostly apples-to-apples comparison.

While it is possible to operate with a separate system for capturing, viewing, and or disseminating images, it’s usually far more efficient to operate with a single system. Integration capabilities become even more important when using devices of multiple types or vendors in a single practice—some dentists use phosphor plate systems for panoramic imaging and rely on intraoral sensors for bite-wing and periapical images.

 

Carestream Dental

Carestream is naturally one of the first options discussed when considering dental imaging sensors and software; Carestream purchased the company that invented the first commercially available dental imaging CCD sensors, Trophy Radiology, back in the late 1980s. They are one of the largest manufacturers of dental imaging equipment, and their various practice management solutions, PracticeWorks, SoftDent, WinOMS, etc., all integrate with their devices, allowing captured images to be saved directly to the patient chart. Carestream’s sensors’ outputs conform to DICOM standards, so captured images can be stored, managed, and/or viewed on any DICOM-compliant platform. SoftDent does have an available third-party integration “module”—likely a euphemism for custom development—so integrating the practice management platform with other sensors is possible in theory. No current SoftDent users interviewed had any need of third-party integration services—they had opted for an all-Carestream solution. For those dentists attesting for Meaningful Use Incentives, Carestream has partnered with Amazing Charts to achieve certification from ONC for Stage 1 and 2 requirements.

 

Dentrix

Another system of note is Henry Schein’s Dentrix. Dentrix, who through various buyouts and partnerships has developed solutions for Dexis, Gendex, other e2v sensors. All of them integrate with the Dentrix platform, straight out of the box. More than one dentist interviewed considered the Dentrix system to be superior to other offerings from major vendors for such “cross-platform” interoperability. Whether or not those dentists cared or even truly understood that Dentrix has various equity relationships with a majority of these supposed third-party vendors is up for debate. Regardless, Dentrix is a popular choice for various dentists and dental specialists.

 

Patterson Dental

Patterson Dental provides Eaglesoft and Dolphin software for dental and orthodontic practice management, respectively. Perhaps because Patterson does not have an ownership stake in any particular imaging platform, both Eaglesoft and Dolphin integrate with various imaging devices. These include Schick, Sirona, and an available module for integrating DICOM or TWAIN-compliant devices. Patterson’s software solutions can use patient images to create educational resources such as treatment plans with included simulations that show how a patient might look with braces on, or how teeth will move over the course of orthodontic treatment. Also of note, Patterson’s Eaglesoft is a certified complete ambulatory electronic health records system, and is ready for Meaningful Use Stage 2 attestation.

 

Final Thought

These four options from Dentrix, Patterson, and Carestream are well represented among the solutions used by dentists interviewed by TechnologyAdvice. While they certainly aren’t the only practice management choices for “digital dentists,” these four solutions are among the top options available. Further information on these and other dental software solutions, interviews, and other resources are available for free from TechnologyAdvice—a completely shameless plug, but trying to discuss all the variables to consider when purchasing dental imaging and practice management software would cause this article to swell to a nigh-unreadable length.

 

About the Author 

Charles Settles is a product analyst at TechnologyAdvice. He covers topics related to gamification, healthcare IT, and project management. Connect with him on LinkedIn.