Is a fully digital workflow always the best option?- Cheryl Hayes

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  Posted by: Dental Design      2nd June 2018

It’s no understatement to say that in recent years dentistry has experienced somewhat of a digital revolution. Many practices have abandoned traditional methods for digital radiography machines, whilst the number of practices offering a fully digital workflow is definitely on the rise.[i]

This makes sense for a number of reasons. New technology is constantly being developed, and digital X-ray systems provide radiographs that can be edited for clearer diagnoses. They also feature faster image acquisition and lower levels of radiation whilst cutting out the need to regularly invest in plates and developing chemicals.[ii]

However, despite these benefits, immediately implementing a completely digital workflow simply isn’t viable for everyone, and there are a number of reasons why a practice may benefit from a more gradual progression.

Is going fully digital a worthwhile investment?

Even though digital technology is now much more affordable than a decade ago, the initial cost can still create a barrier for a practice when making the decision to upgrade to fully digital systems.

To make sure that the change is worthwhile you need to evaluate the potential return on investment. The first step towards this is examining your patient base and identifying the procedures that you routinely perform. If these don’t require a high volume of X-rays then it’s unlikely that you’ll benefit quickly from making the switch to more complex technology, regardless of the savings it can offer in terms of buying plates and chemicals.

Your available budget also makes a difference, and for smaller practices with fewer patients and less overall income, investing in the latest fully digital technology is unlikely to be the most cost-effective option. This means that making the change gradually using more affordable, partially digitalised systems is often a better alternative. It will likely be specialist practices that routinely perform large quantities of X-rays or those that have a high volume of patients that will see most benefits of a fully digital systems straight away.


Dentistry is innovating all the time, but when you’re familiar with the tech that you already have and are happy with the results, there is understandably less motivation to change anything.

New technology always comes with a learning curve, and becoming familiar with new equipment can take time. Unfamiliarity with features can disrupt your workflow and slow you down until you’re used to them, which could lead to you treating fewer patients.

Making the change to fully digital equipment through partially digitalised systems is a good way to take a step towards going digital without such a steep learning curve. Partially digitalised systems often follow a similar workflow to traditional methods whilst providing some of the benefits of digital, making the transition easier.

A smooth transition

The latest plate systems still have many applications within a practice. As well as being able to consistently provide high quality radiographs, in many cases the plates are thinner and less rigid, allowing for better patient comfort during image acquisition.[iii]

These systems are an amalgamation of traditional workflows and digital benefits. They offer dentists the best of both worlds and can facilitate a smooth transition between the two. They are often designed to integrate into practices with traditional systems in place, and allow dentists to take a step towards using digital methods without having to completely redesign the layout of their practice.

Size matters

Ensuring that your practice contains the most convenient equipment to perform procedures is likely to increase the efficiency of your workflow. In light of this, the size of your practice will have an influence over what technology you can employ. A digital CBCT machine can be on the larger side, and investing in one means that you’ll have to find the space in your practice to house it. For larger practices this may not present a problem, but for smaller establishments this can mean that upgrading to a fully digital system simply isn’t a viable option.

One system that combines the best aspects of both film and digital experiences is the CS 7200 imaging plate system from Carestream Dental. A cost effective, convenient solution that provides radiographs of excellent quality, the scanner is compact, operable chairside and converts highly accurate plate images into digital files, allowing you access to high quality X-rays in a matter of seconds. 

Go digital at a rate that suits you

Every practice is different so it’s important to examine what effects implementing a fully digital workflow can have for you. It’s always good to keep up-to-date with the latest technological advancements – especially those that you think your patients will benefit from most– but you shouldn’t feel you have to purchase every new technology without considering whether it’s cost effective, convenient and worthwhile for your practice.


For more information, contact Carestream Dental on 0800 169 9692 or


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[i]Hawkey, N. (2017). Are You Ready for the Digital Future in Dentistry? BDA (British Dental Association). Link:[Last accessed Feb18].


[ii]Parsi, A. (2013). The Benefits of Digital Radiography Flow Both Ways. Dental Economics. Link:[Last accessed Feb18].


[iii]  Anonymous (2014). Digital vs Conventional Radiography in the Dental Office. The Canadian Academy of Dental Health and Community Sciences. Link:[Last accessed Feb18].

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