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Larry Emmott Interview

February 6th, 2008 · No Comments

2/6/08 – He knows dentistry. He knows computers. He knows dental technology. This month’s DentalBlogs exclusive with Dr. Larry Emmott will give you the inside scoop on how to bring your practice into the technological age – without making foolish mistakes. What’s the secret?


About Dr. Emmott

Where did you attend school, and what is your area of expertise?

I graduated in 1977 from the University of Southern California and have practiced dentistry for 30 years. My practice in focuses on general and cosmetic dentistry.


Do you still work with the Phoenix Coyotes as the team dentist?

Yes. Been doing it for 20 years. Originally, I’m from Canada, but I’ve been in Arizona since childhood, so being a dentist for a pro hockey team suits me well.


What is your relationship with Dental Products Report as a columnist?

I write their monthly technology column and have for at least five years. Before that, I wrote for Dental Economics and had many articles published on technology – like digital cameras – as well as the clinical aspects of dentistry and practice management.


How did you become a technological guru for dentists?

It all started with my interest in dental practice management. My office had a computer for billing in the early days. I believed that someday computers would be important…for my kids. Then I bought a home computer, a MAC, for the kids. I fell in love with it and realized that if that power could be harnessed in my practice, the possibilities would be endless. I set out on a quest to find a Windows-based practice management software, but I found difficulty and misunderstanding when it came to computers for the dental office. This area needed help. It then became an avocation to learn and stay on top of the topic. I am a complete geek, I enjoy technology, and I love to use and apply technology in the dental office.


Tell me about your lectures, consulting, and blogs on technology for dentists.

I consult, write, and run a private practice. Actually, I run Emmott on Technology, the best technology dental blog in the universe, IMHO. For five years now, I’ve hosted Technology on the Rocks. It’s a vacation/CE program in Sedona, Arizona. My hobby is mountain biking, so we all go biking (staff, spouses, etc.), then have a technology seminar in the afternoon. This year, Technology on the Rocks will be May 29-30, 2008. We’ll cover general dental technology information, like using management software, getting a webpage, and paperless records. 


What is the most common question that you receive from dentists?

The way it’s posed is: "I want to go digital." Usually, this means that a dentist wants digital X-rays, but that’s only a small part of a truly digital office. Dentists need computers in treatment rooms, cameras, diagnostics, and completely paperless records to "go digital." The dentist who wants only digital radiography, without the complete infrastructure, is moving in the wrong direction. The best route is to get information by attending seminars, then seeking private consulting with hands-on training and assistance setting up a technologically modern dental practice.


For a general dentist practicing cosmetic dentistry, what tools are essential to his technological arsenal?

A good digital camera is essential. Image management software with cosmetic imaging is important, too. An impressive display monitor in the consultation room, a high-tech diode laser – these will really help a cosmetic dentist. A high-end office will also help, meaning that you appear up to date. Let your patients know that you have a computer and technological tools in your office. The public expects high-tech stuff these days.


Do you think that a "paperless office," equipped with digital records, forms, and X-rays, is important for all modern dental offices?

Yes – there are so many advantages. As the world goes digital, dentists will be forced into it. Some will resist, but paperless records are cheaper and faster. They’re also more accurate and make transmitting information easier. The patients perception is that you’re up to date if you’re digital. That helps business.


How can a dentist use technology to enhance his marketing?

Call Tim at TNT and asks for a website, for starters. Patient perception is important, as I said. Also, a good case presentation helps a patient choose better treatment. A camera is so powerful. If you invest in the technology, you’ll gather data by accident…you’ll start entering information into the computer, and before you know it, you’ll have a great resource about your patients. What’s their age range? Common treatments? Where does most of your revenue come in? Am I referring? Could I do the procedures I’m referring out myself? These can all be marketing tools. Then, of course, there’s the obvious – email and webpage marketing.


How important is a practice website?

I am still on the edge. For some it is essential, but we can survive without one. However, particularly in certain areas, a website is essential. You may put yourself at a tremendous disadvantage against your competitors if you don’t have a website. Young professionals in big cities search the Internet. The other thing is that a webpage is not just a Yellow Pages ad. Patients won’t flood in because you have a webpage. You need strategies to get your site found. A website isn’t just about attracting new patients, but also servicing existing customers. Your site will help existing patients in all kinds of ways. And as technology improves, websites will become more important.


You use Invisalign and lasers in your private practice. What other clinical technology do you find helpful in your office?

A digital camera, diode laser, Invisalign, imaging software. Many people ask me about 3D scanning with CEREC or E4D. iTero and Brontes offers imaging only, without in-house milling. Another important tool is a cone beam scan.


Do you believe that 3D imaging will replace traditional impression materials? When? How will the initial cost of the imaging equipment impact the success of 3D imaging for the general dentist?

Pricing for 3D imaging is very reasonable at $15 to 18K (plus so much per use) in comparison to a $100K machine. This will bring it into the market quicker. But remember, every dentist needs a plan before investing in technology. Without computers and digital records, a 3D imaging system is silly. We’re seeing more and more computers in treatment rooms, as well as paperless records. 3D imaging is the next step. I predict a rapid change over the next 5 to 10 years.



What is, in your opinion, the greatest challenge dentists face today?

The biggest mistakes include: 1) Lack of a vision or goal. A dentist doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. New dentists tend to make bad choices based on lack of knowledge. They need to see the full picture and get a plan in place so that their technology works together to benefit their business. 2) Once dentists buy the right things, they can underutilize them. They resist training and don’t know what to do with their investment. If they have turnover, the new team is completely untrained, so the practice can’t use tools to their full capacity. Training is an annual, updated thing, not a one-time thing.


Best new clinical technology?

Digital 3D imaging for virtual impressions, like the kind used with CERC, E4D, and Invisalign.


Best practice management software?

Dentrix – I am comfortable recommending it and think that it offers good support, features, and functionality. The other two leaders, PracticeWorks and EagleSoft, work well, too.


Most important management aspect of dentistry for a new dentist, fresh out of school?

For new dentists, I’d have to say training. Dentists need to realize that running a business/practice requires skills and learning. Take management courses, hire a consultant, but don’t wing it. Get help. Understand that there are things to learn about running a business, or work for someone else and leave business to them.


Best upcoming date on your speaking calendar for 2008?

I’m working with Pride Institute in California on a joint effort to provide high-tech consulting services to new clients. And as for speaking engagements, my favorite is Technology on the Rocks. I’ll also speak at the ADA meeting in San Antonio, October 16-19 this year.


What is your favorite source for hot information in the dental industry?

My blog,, is a great source for dentists, and so is I read the same magazines and attend the same meetings as most dentists. For technology news, I go outside of the dental industry. I went to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. I’ve also developed relationships with three major dental technology vendors and work closely with them to learn what’s coming out, etc. I provide team feedback.


What books are on your nightstand

God and Gold: Britain, America, and the Making of the Modern World by Walter Russell Mead. I like to read business books and high-tech books. Of course, I read the major magazines on dentistry. And I’d recommend – Bill Gates’ books – Business a the Speed of Thought: Succeeding in the Digital Economy. Also, E-Myth: The Seven Essential Disciplines for Building a World Class Company by Michael E. Gerber is good – and Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith.




Tags: Technology · Uncategorized