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Interview: Smart means integrated digital technology for improved dentistry
In 2019, Dr Ginal Bilimoria was honoured with Dentsply Sirona’s first Smart Integration Award which celebrates innovative ideas from female dental experts. It was awarded to her for her forward-looking ideas related to the digital workflow and the impact that integration would have on both her as a practitioner and on her patients. Bilimoria is a general dentist in Orewa, a suburb of Auckland in New Zealand. Dentsply Sirona spoke with her about what made her decide to enter the competition, the role of technology in her own practice and her future goals.
Dr Bilimoria, you were awarded the 2019 Smart Integration Award by Dentsply Sirona. What made you decide to participate?
There were four different aspects that intrigued me about the award application. Firstly, it was about efficient, intelligent and integrated workflows using smart networked processes—something I am interested in. Secondly, the criteria specified that our current experience of digital workflows could be submitted in the application along with our ideas for the future. It was exciting that the winning ideas could be used as prototypes for future equipment. Thirdly, it was open to women from all over the world, and when women get together in a group to discuss dentistry, the dynamic is often quite different, as we open up and share more easily about our struggles and successes. And finally, I thought to myself what a forward-thinking company this is, that actually invites feedback in a formal, yet unique and approachable way from its customers. This is a company that is passionate about the future of dentistry and with which I would like to align myself. When I met the management team in Germany, every person in the team reflected this same passion for innovative dentistry.
Do you have a dental specialisation?
In New Zealand, to become a registered dental specialist one must have completed an additional full-time three-year doctorate degree from the University of Otago in Dunedin. Although I was accepted for specialisation in prosthodontics, the programme was only available full-time, and increased family commitments, combined with trends indicating that the near future would be good for proficient general dentists, steered me away from that path.
I did, however, pursue postgraduate studies overseas in general dentistry. I became a graduate of the Kois Center for advanced dental education in Seattle in the US. Dr John Kois, the founder, himself a periodontist and prosthodontist, has been delivering his advanced dental curriculum for over 30 years. Its content is constantly being updated with every new piece of validated scientific evidence that he reviews personally.
You have recently opened your own dental practice. Can you tell us more about it?
I am extremely excited about my own private practice which was launched in December 2020 and is called SmartDentist. The name was actually inspired by the Smart Integration Award I received. In this context, “smart” means integrating digital technology for the purpose of wellness and improved dentistry for my patients. I want to create an ambience that is conducive to healing and a positive experience for both the patient and the provider because I believe in the “flow” concept: “When the mind is still on both sides of the chair, then the healing can begin—with my hands on one side and your smile on the other.”
My boutique one-surgery practice idea was born purely out of my passion to provide better outcomes for my patients utilising the right tools. Dental companies like Dentsply Sirona have also inspired me with their state-of-the-art digital technology tools which help deliver such outcomes.
My theme for the practice is based around the concept of wellness dentistry for better oral health, using smart digital technology with a focus on patient education. The key focus areas are developed to include treatments such as CEREC same-visit crowns, clear aligner therapy, SMART (Safe Mercury Amalgam Removal Technique) protocol and smile design, using all the principles I learned at the Kois Center.
For my practice, I have purchased the CEREC Primescan, the CEREC Primemill and the CEREC SpeedFire. I am excited about the new Primescan because it enables more accurate and faster full-arch scans for diagnostics and digital impressions for Kois Deprogrammer construction and other removable appliances. I am able to track wear of teeth over consecutive years and give it a metric judgement rather than a visual observation based on vague memory recall. I also have the ability to scan the deeper subgingival margins for CEREC crowns which was more difficult with the predecessor Omnicam. I am looking forward to using SiroLaser Blue for smooth no-touch cutting efficiency for gingivectomies and for exposing crown margins. The feature I like most about the Primemill is how it reduces the time taken to grind e.max crowns and the milling of zirconia crowns to under 5 minutes! And it has a whole new bur system. The brand new 0.5 mm bur tool for achieving detailed fissure anatomy on the occlusal surface of crowns also helps the crowns look more like a natural tooth. It is impressive to see how CEREC technology has evolved in the past 30 years.
Does digitalisation play a major role in dentistry in New Zealand? And how important is the topic of digitalisation in dentistry for you, personally, and in your practice?
With the current exchange rates, I feel the level of financial investment required to enter the digital space and the steep learning curve hinder many of us. For this reason alone, the uptake may not be as high in New Zealand as compared with other parts of the world. When it comes to CEREC awareness, though, about 90% of New Zealand dentists know about it and would probably plan to have it at some stage of their careers as the technology keeps improving. Actually, many dental practices and especially laboratories in New Zealand are currently investing in intra-oral scanners.
“It was exciting that the winning ideas could be used as prototypes for future equipment”
How did your work and dentistry change with COVID-19 in relation to patient care and the role of digitalisation in dentistry? Does digitalisation now play an even greater role?
Yes, digitalisation does play an even greater role now than ever before. The pandemic has definitely brought about an urgency for reducing the physical touch points at my practice. Using cloud-based dental software means no more paper is required for medical and dental history forms because it can be done through a secure portal online. Sidexis 4 enables us to discuss the radiographs, photographs, treatment plan, estimates and invoices on the chair monitor with the patient at the treatment centre. We no longer have the need to print estimates or invoices but can email them when requested. Having the foot control toggle to change settings on the Sinius treatment centre helps for a hands-free approach. Digitalised auto purging of the treatment centre also ensures a systematic robotic process to help eliminate any human error for chair cross-infection protocols. Primescan, Primemill and SpeedFire ensure we can remain independent of national and worldwide courier delay issues, and they also reduce touch points. In addition, our IQAir filtration units and ducted ventilation system give us peace of mind that we are doing everything we possibly can to keep our patients and ourselves safe in the unpredictable times of COVID-19.
What are your special interests and focus topics in dentistry?
My special interest is on patient education, and one of my focus topics in dentistry is the breaking down of barriers so that our patients feel more engaged, involved and excited about their dental visit and treatment. I have found that patients who are educated about their oral health value and appreciate the treatment we have to offer. I am keen to research what patients are really trying to say when they explain their dental symptoms and perceived needs. It is important to educate our patients that dentistry is customised and health based and not an itemised commodity. Patients need to become advocates for their own dental health so they can make better decisions about it in order to improve their dental outcome and experience.
Do you have any special professional or personal goals?
Dentistry is my main hobby. My goal is to realise my passionate vision in the context of my start-up practice. I want to create a practice with a wellness atmosphere for myself as the provider and for my patients. Being close to home and my children is important to me. To be able to afford cutting-edge technology will require a phased approach and support from patients that share the same values for their smile goals.
Editorial note: Dentsply Sirona is inviting interested female dentists and dental technicians to submit their ideas and insights on designing efficient and comfortable workflows in dentistry for the 2021 Smart Integration Award until 28 June. More information on the award and how to apply can be found at dentsplysirona.com/en/smart-integration-award.