My Monday started early, at precisely 7:15 am, with a telephone call punctuating the serene morning calm. A distressed voice on the other end belonged to April, a dental assistant struggling with a perplexing issue - her dental CBCT (Cone Beam Computed Tomography) device was non-responsive. A CBCT scan was requested for the endodontic procedure being done at 7:30 am, and the urgency in her voice was palpable. Given my extensive experience with CBCT machines, I immediately had a hunch about the probable cause. The issue likely lay with the emergency switch, which had probably been inadvertently activated during the post-weekend clean-up. Guiding April through the process of resetting the emergency switch, we managed to get the system up and running just in time. It was a crisis skillfully averted on a Monday morning!
The incident prompted me to reflect on the term "reliability" as it pertains to technology. In this particular case, while the CBCT system was functioning as designed, a lack of familiarity with all the controls rendered the device seemingly inoperable. Thus, a system's reliability isn't solely confined to its mechanical performance. In this context, the reliability of the CBCT equipment extended to the competence and availability of an external support system, in this case, Dental TI, the company that supplied the CBCT machine.
Reliability, in essence, is the likelihood of a device performing efficiently over a specified duration under normal operating conditions. Yet, when considering the CBCT system, its reliability is not just about the machine but also hinges on the operator's skills and knowledge. It's a symbiosis that ensures a successful end result: a diagnostic 3D dental scan.
Having worked extensively with dental CBCT technology - from installation and training to troubleshooting and repair - I can assert that reliability transcends the simple notion of owning a machine that won't fail. Achieving consistent, diagnostically valuable scans every single time involves a tripartite model of reliability: the CBCT device's quality, user training, and the presence of skilled assistance when required. With this blog post, my aim is to demystify the factors that contribute to the reliability of a CBCT machine. I refer to this as the three pillars of CBCT quality.
Pillar One - the Quality of the Hardware. Remember, when it comes to reliability, the least expensive option is seldom the most cost-effective.
In the realm of dental CBCT technology, the adage "you get what you pay for" rings true often. The first pillar of CBCT reliability stems from the quality of the hardware itself - a factor that should never be compromised upon, as it plays a crucial role in ensuring consistent performance and precise diagnostic outcomes.
High-quality CBCT systems are built to last, engineered with robust materials and superior components that endure the wear and tear of daily use in a busy dental practice. Such systems are characterized by their exceptional durability, operational efficiency, and superior imaging capabilities. If you have an opportunity to compare CBCT units at a dental tradeshow, pay close attention to the quality of the plastic covers and the feel of temple stabilizers and chin supports. If a manufacturer is skimping on the parts, you can see and feel, it is likely that cost-cutting played a role in the internal components as well.
Precision and Quality Go Together With CBCT
Of foremost importance, superior dental cone beam CT systems deliver excellent image quality, boasting high-resolution sensors that provide detailed and clear 3D scans. These scans form the basis for precise diagnosis and treatment planning – which are two main reasons to invest in CBCT. It is important that you review live patient scans prior to investing to have an idea of image quality from the various machines you are considering. Contact objective dental radiologists and pay for one of them to spend an hour reviewing scans from CBCT machines that are candidates for purchase. You will see how a radiologist reviews scans and see the quality difference between the 3D scans that have been provided for review.
Invest in an Oral Radiologist's time when considering a CBCT purchase
The CBCTs that produce the best image quality are typically very reliable. Creating top image quality means that the cone beam CT was manufactured with top components and exacting tolerances. The best image quality is due to a well-engineered CBCT that balances KV, MA, Voxel size, and scan speed and minimizes patient movement. When cone beam CT units are calibrated, 3D phantoms are scanned and measured to ensure that the CBCT is delivering the quality that it was engineered to deliver from the factory. Quality assurance kits are provided by the manufacturer to verify that the CBCT is still providing the intended image quality. Top-quality machines stay in calibration as there is little to no “drift” of the components (tube head and sensor) that require calibration by a technician onsite. If the manufacturer recommends frequent calibrations, that is a red flag in the build quality of the unit.
Example of Wire Phantoms Used for CBCTG Image Quality Evaluation
Dentaltown is a great place to search for the CBCT machine that you are considering finding if there are user comments either good or bad. Normally, if a specific brand of CBCT is known for issues, there will be a dentist or dentists who will post the issues on Dentaltown to request help from other dental professionals. Or, as a warning to other dentists to avoid the brand. Research forums where dentists congregate and speak to end users as they are a wealth of knowledge. Remember, when it comes to reliability, the initial purchase price is just one piece of the puzzle; the real value lies in the ongoing performance and capabilities of the CBCT system. It's crucial to see beyond the price tag and consider the long-term cost-effectiveness, as the cheapest option is rarely the most reliable. www.dentaltown.com
Pillar Two: The Importance of User Training
The second pillar of CBCT reliability centers around a factor often overlooked but paramount to the effective use of the system: user training. The incident with April demonstrated this clearly – even with high-quality hardware in place, the lack of knowledge about a simple function like the emergency shut-off switch can create unnecessary panic and disrupt the workflow. Therefore, even the most advanced, high-performing CBCT system can only be as reliable as the skills of the individual operating it.
Staff Training is Key to Effective Use of CBCT
Understanding and effectively navigating all features and controls of the CBCT system is critical to obtaining accurate, diagnostic-quality images. This knowledge extends beyond just pressing a few buttons to initiate a scan. It includes a broad range of capabilities such as adjusting the field of view, selecting appropriate scan protocols, patient positioning, and interpreting the resulting images. Each of these aspects plays a crucial role in the reliability of the machine and its ability to consistently deliver high-quality results.
Often, with new CBCT systems, a certain degree of training is provided by the manufacturer or the supplying company. This training, while important, should not be a one-time event. Regular refresher courses or advanced training sessions should be encouraged to ensure that operators stay up-to-date with any updates or improvements to the machine, software, or scanning protocols. Additionally, these training sessions allow operators to sharpen their skills and gain confidence in operating the machine, troubleshooting minor issues, and optimizing scan parameters for the best results.
User training is not just beneficial for the operator; it also indirectly affects patient care. A well-trained operator will be able to minimize radiation exposure by selecting appropriate scan parameters and ensuring proper patient positioning. This not only enhances patient safety but also ensures that the resulting images are of the highest diagnostic quality, leading to more accurate diagnoses and effective treatment plans.
Invest in Ongoing Training
In the grand scheme of CBCT reliability, user training is an essential investment. Just as an untrained pilot can't effectively fly a high-tech airplane, a dental professional without comprehensive training can't maximize the benefits and capabilities of a high-quality CBCT system. So, while quality hardware is important, it is equally crucial to invest time and resources in quality training, empowering the operator to use the CBCT system to its full potential.
Pillar three: the availability and expertise of skilled technical assistance when required. As demonstrated in the incident with April, even the most trained operator can encounter situations where external expert help is necessary. It was the ready availability and expertise of Dental TI that turned a potential crisis into a smoothly averted situation.
Reliability in 3D Imaging Requires. Accessible Expert CBCT Support When Needed
Having access to competent and responsive support is crucial in maintaining the reliable operation of a CBCT system. Technical issues can occur at any time and having someone knowledgeable to turn to can make the difference between a brief interruption and a prolonged system downtime. A reliable support service should not only be able to guide the user in troubleshooting minor issues but also be able to provide prompt on-site service for more complex problems.
While the importance of quality hardware and user training cannot be overstated, the truth is that even the highest quality machines with the most trained operators can experience unforeseen issues or technical glitches. That’s when the presence of an expert becomes essential. It’s about having someone to call who knows your machine intimately, understands the urgency of your situation, and is dedicated to resolving the issue quickly to minimize disruption to your practice.
A good support team will also proactively work with you to maintain your CBCT machine in top shape. They will help with regular maintenance schedules, and software updates, and provide advice on best practices to ensure the longevity of your machine. It’s a partnership that extends the reliability of your CBCT system far beyond the initial installation and setup.
Additionally, companies like Dental TI often provide resources and continued learning opportunities to keep users updated on the latest developments and techniques in CBCT technology. This helps operators continuously enhance their skills and improve their understanding of the system, further contributing to the overall reliability of the CBCT machine.
In essence, the presence of skilled assistance when required is a cornerstone of CBCT reliability. It’s not just about having a number to call when things go wrong, but having confidence in a team that is as invested in the success of your dental practice as you are. And as April learned that Monday morning, it’s the peace of mind knowing that expert help is just a phone call away, no matter the hour.
If you are new to the CBCT journey or a seasoned user, Dental TI can help. Contact us today to arrange a consult to help you find the most reliable CBCT for your practice. Click below to learn more. Mention the "cone beam guy" to get special offers on continuing CBCT education.