Most dentists are allocating 10% of their yearly budget to new technologies. If you’re not among them, you may be at risk of falling behind in efficiency, accuracy, and other factors that can give you an edge over your competition. For example, 65% of dentists use digital sensors that speed up the X-ray process, while 15% are providing in-office milling to deliver same-day service for labs and procedures.

If you haven’t upgraded your offerings recently, it’s a good time to investigate trends and reallocate funds. Having trouble deciding what to do first? These four questions can help guide you.

1. What are your goals and needs?

You can’t spend on every new technology, so it’s critical to choose equipment that matches the goals and needs of your practice. Some things to consider:

  • It’s not just the “what” (which tech to get) but also the “why” (how it will help your practice). Start with your goals, then find tech that fits.
  • Invest in tech that matches the philosophy of your practice. If patient service is a top concern, for example, consider software that helps with online bill paying or provides automated appointment reminders.

  Tip  

Think about your timeline. Prioritize purchases, and roll them out gradually, giving you time to look into financing options. Also, discuss tax code and depreciation issues with your accountant. Section 179 of the IRS Tax Cuts and Jobs Act allows practices to depreciate in full most equipment purchases during the year in which the items are first placed in service.

2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?

To help you organize your thinking, you may find it helpful to do a SWOT analysis. 

  • A SWOT analysis is usually completed using a four-square grid with boxes labeled strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. See an example and tips for how to create a SWOT analysis here (PDF)
  • First, list your practice’s strengths and weaknesses, which are things within your control. Then list opportunities you haven’t taken advantage of (like new tech) and threats that are mostly outside your control (like cybercrime). Finally, brainstorm tech solutions that can help you address a weakness or take advantage of an opportunity.

  Tip  

When completing your SWOT analysis, get your staff involved. Don’t judge or even comment on their input during the brainstorming stage, or you might stifle their creativity and candor.

3. What do your peers and patients think?

Among dentists in a professional association, 54% consider their fellow members to be an important resource when making purchasing decisions. Here are a few ways to tap your network for tech recommendations:

  • Reach out to peers, mentors, and previous employers.
  • Read dentists’ reviews, especially for new or beta technologies.
  • Do research online, seeking ideas from reputable dental organizations and publications.
  • Read journal articles: 75% of dentists said clinical research is very important when deciding to switch to a new product.
  • Ask patients what they’re looking for in person or via a survey.

  Tip  

Join a study club — a small group of dentists who meet regularly to learn from each other. Nearly three-quarters of study-club participants say their group has helped them make decisions on equipment and tech.

4. What fits your budget right now?

It can be helpful to have a financial advisor to help you weigh the costs and benefits of potential purchases, as well as gauge the potential return on investment (ROI). Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • ROI includes quantitative (data-driven) factors, as well as qualitative ones (such as patient satisfaction). Working with a lender who understands dentists can help ensure you look at ROI from all appropriate angles.
  • Having a good credit profile can help you when it comes to financing new purchases. To get the best rates, check your score, and take steps to improve it, if needed.

  Tip  

When interviewing potential lenders for an equipment loan or other financing option, ask how much experience they have with dental practices. Also, ask for the names of a few of their dental clients.

By following this process of researching, calculating, and tapping others’ expertise, you can be sure to invest in technologies that will help your practice not only survive but thrive.

Consider this: Use this SWOT analysis worksheet (PDF) to identify your tech strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, then compare the pros and cons to choose what to tackle first.

Sources: Inside Dentistry: Trends in Dentistry, Internal Revenue Service, The Medical Futurist, Strategic Thinking Institute, LivePlan