An Overview of Dental Office Systems

For dentists wearing a multitude of management and clinical hats, dental office software has the potential to alleviate many tedious daily tasks. Yet, many practitioners are not using systems they already have to their full potential. Often work that could be automated is still being performed manually. This article provides an overview of dental office systems and what they are capable of, in order to assist with selecting and evaluating existing software systems.

Chairside computers have become more commonplace, with Dentrix (Henry Schein), Eaglesoft(Patterson Dental) and Softdent(Kodak) grabbing the largest shares of the market, followed by Easy Dental (Henry Schein) and Practice Works (Kodak).  These systems are all Windows based. A newer totally web-based system from Curve Dental offers a Mac option. These systems all provide treatment planning, charting, insurance and e-claims, patient recall, and scheduling, but vary in their voice recognition, mobile application, and customizable patient education functions.

As dentists look down the road toward a national health network and integrated EHR, personal health records will play an increasing role. Patients may become the driving force in adopting an effective system of health information exchange among various providers.

In surveys of practitioners, concerns expressed about office computer systems include ease of use and chairside infection control. Dentists are particularly interested in how to enter data while using personal protective equipment (PPE). While the use of voice recognition software is designed to address this concern, a training time is needed for the program to “learn” the speech patterns of individual users.

Lessons Learned:

  • Over the last decade, dentists have shifted from limited practice management software to integrated networks that combine administrative and clinical functions.
  • While most integrated dental office software programs accommodate treatment planning, charting, insurance claims, patient recalls, and scheduling, they differ in their voice recognition, mobile application, and patient education features.
  • Curve Dental offers a web-based dental system with an option for Windows or Mac
  • Voice recognition is an important option for dentists wanting a charting option they can use while wearing personal protective equipment.

Sam, F. E., & Bonnick, A. M. (2011). Office computer systems for the dental office. Dental Clinics of North America, 55(3), 549-557.