As the dental industry becomes increasingly tech-savvy, the movement has grown beyond the typical tools of the trade. Even decidedly consumer-focused technologies like the iPad are finding their way into the contemporary dental practice. For one progressive Utah dentist, a new app is enabling him to wield the iPad as part of his treatment protocol to engage—and even entertain—patients with their own care.
Based in the scenic vista of South Jordan in the southern end of Salt Lake City, Dr. John Stark operates a progressive dental practice where he treats as many as 30 patients each day, with more than 3,000 on the practice roster. Having already installed monitors on the ceiling to allow patients to watch movies during procedures, and to show them x-rays and images from intraoral cameras, he had grown dissatisfied with the current system.
“I wanted to use the iPad, so I had a special stand made to hold it chairside,” Stark said. “This worked okay for patient entertainment, but I also wanted to use it to show patients their x-rays and intraoral camera images. But, most dental software is Windows based, which of course doesn’t work with the iPad. And, most intraoral cameras connect via USB. The iPad has no USB input.”
Looking to resolve these challenges, Stark discovered an app that turns any iPad (or iPhone or iPod), into a wireless extra display monitor. With the app, Stark could easily and conveniently show patients exactly what he was seeing on his desktop PC on the iPad at full resolution and with no Mac/PC compatibility issues.
With the iPad app, Stark can simply slide the patients x-ray image from his generous 20-inch desktop monitor onto the iPad screen and even manipulate the images with the iPad’s touchscreen functionality.
“I like to look at x-rays on my big monitor first so that I can closely examine the images,” Stark says. “Then, I can slide it over to the iPad and zoom in on the area for a closer look with the patient, just by touching the screen. It’s really pretty impressive.”
When using the intraoral camera, Stark and his patient can easily look at and comfortably discuss the images together on the iPad. Prior to using the app, Stark would have to ask the patient to contort in the chair to see the desktop screen or he would have to jump back and forth between the desktop monitor and the ceiling-mounted monitor to point out features of the patient’s dentition.
The app supports both desktop extension to add up to 70 percent additional screen space to the desktop computer monitor and desktop mirroring, so the patient can see what Stark sees on the screen.
“I really prefer the desktop extension mode because in this way, the screen resolution remains unchanged,” he said. “The patient and I can look at the iPad in the same high quality resolution as on my big 20-inch monitor.”
In addition to sharing diagnostic images with his patients, Stark also uses the iPad to show YouTube videos on relevant conditions, treatments and product recommendations, like periodontal disease or how to use an electric toothbrush for example. Of course, it’s also available for showing movies, reading the paper or letting patients check their email during procedures to entertain/distract them from the work being done. He pairs the iPad with wireless Bluetooth headphones for the audio.
“Patients really like the iPad,” he says. “Sometimes perception is reality: if they see that you have this latest technology available, they see you as a provider as being technologically advanced. So, not only does the technology make my job easier, but it can also help to grow the practice.”
Because proper placement of the iPad is critical (it’s not comfortable for the patient to hold it while in the chair), Stark is even working with a company to develop a prototype stand specifically for using the iPad in a dental setting. They’re developing two models: one that mounts to the ceiling and drops down to the patient’s level and another that sits on the floor with a base plate that slides under the dental chair, using this weight as counterbalance to hold the stand in place.
“Without the app, I could only show movies on the iPad. To educate the patient through intraoral pictures, x-rays, etc. would be very difficult, especially since the iPad doesn’t support USB and most software is Windows-based,” Stark said. “The app bridges that gap and because it uses the office WiFi, it’s very fast and responsive with no latency.”
For more information about the Air Display iPad app, visit www.avatron.com.