CBCT is a big investment for many practices that, when implemented correctly, can provide a significantly positive ROI and improve patient outcomes and experience. There are numerous articles, forums, and blog posts that discuss the many reasons to upgrade from a 2D to 3D x-ray system, but there are far less that discuss a strategy for determining when the time is right to upgrade your existing CBCT. Here, we take a look at the key variables that determine the useful life of a CBCT system to understand when it makes the most sense to swap out your current CBCT.
Not unlike many other industries, manufacturers of large dental imaging equipment are continually putting resources into developing different versions and new iterations of their machines and accompanying software. As they continue to innovate and release new systems, an ever-growing gap emerges between the diagnostic and treatment planning capabilities of older and newer systems. Sometimes, even "previous generation" systems will benefit from software updates that add improved image enhancement algorithms or treatment planning functions. Older systems are pushed closer to the end of the obsolescence curve when new systems are released with improved hardware components that allow for higher image resolution, reduction in scatter and other artifacts, better dose control, and/or faster acquisition times.
A good case study in this regard is the noticeable improvement in image quality and reduction in scatter provided by the J. Morita X800 CBCT system (released in 2018) vs. its predecessor, the X700 (released in 2011).
In the video, the X800 clearly offers advantages in terms of image quality and scatter reduction that would be particularly useful for an endodontist searching for missed canals. However, both systems still provide a diagnostic image, and the X700 is hardly obsolete. When first released, the X700 retailed for nearly $150k; today, new X700 systems are price competitive with systems such as Kavo, Carestream, and Vatech, while still offering advantages in terms of image quality and reliability. J. Morita systems are engineered to last, and have been known to provide a useful life in excess of 10 years.
To answer if your CBCT has been rendered obsolete by the newest iteration released by the manufacturer, ask yourself: Am I seeing what I need to be seeing in my scans, or would I be able to diagnose and treat more confidently with the improved image quality of the newest system?
When Bill Gates Decides it's Time
Unfortunately, even if your CBCT system could keep working reliably for several decades, the progression and obsolescence curve of PCs and Operating Systems (OS) make such a scenario highly unlikely. Practically all CBCT systems are integrated with a primary "imaging server" or "acquistion PC", usually a professional-grade desktop equipped with more powerful components than a standard workstation.
Manufacturers of computers and computer components, and computer software generally release new iterations of their products in more rapid succession than manufacturers of large imaging equipment. When a new CBCT system is released, it is engineered to interface with a current generation PC and OS. Even as new computer technology and operating systems are released, a CBCT system will continue to work with its accompanying PC and OS. But what happens when a major software company such as Microsoft announces it is retiring one of its Operating Systems such as Windows 7?
This is a question that all dental practices currently using Windows 7 have had to grapple with as 2020 quickly approaches, when Microsoft will officially retire Windows 7 and end support for the operating system. At that point, Windows 7 will no longer be a HIPAA-compliant operating system, and any Windows 7 computers will need to be replaced or upgraded to a more current version of Windows that is still supported with updates and security patches.
If your CBCT system uses a 3 year old acquisition PC running Windows 7, it is likely you can simply upgrade your OS to a more current version of Windows. An 8-10 year old PC running Windows 7 is far less likely to be a good candidate for an operating system update. The more current operating system will likely require more current hardware components to work reliably. If your old CBCT system is not compatible with current-generation PCs, you may be looking at a situation where the progression of computers and requirements of HIPAA are making your CBCT effectively obsolete despite it still "working fine".
The Circumstances of Ownership
How you structured your purchase of your current CBCT system is an important factor in determining when it would make sense to replace it or upgrade it. In this regard, it is good to know the warranty period that your system offers, the term length you chose for financing, and whether you chose to amortize over a period of years or take the Section 179 deduction up front. Together, these factors can determine the financial implications of replacing your CBCT system. For example, a CBCT unit that has been fully amortized and is no longer in warranty would be a good candidate for replacement since the full tax benefit of owning the equipment has been realized, and the lack of warranty coverage would mean costly repairs or scrambling for a replacement in the event of a failure.
The main factors in determining whether it makes sense for you to upgrade your CBCT system are the current state of the art, your system's compliance with current and future regulations, as well as the financial implications of your current ownership situation. CBCT, when implemented properly, is an investment rather than a purchase. Planning your investment strategically is the best way to ensure it provides your practice with the highest possible return, and that you are bale to get the most out of the benefits this technology has to offer for specialists and general dentists alike.
If this is a question you are weighing, we encourage you to reach out to Dental TI for a free technology consultation. We can help you evaluate your situation, and advise on how to get the highest possible trade-in value for your current unit. We can be reached via phone, email, or live chat, with details found on our contact page.