Open Formats and Protocols in Dentistry

Open formats and protocols in dentistry first appeared in the 2000s. They grew from the need of dental laboratories to integrate equipment for digitizing study models, designing dental prosthesis,  and manufacturing those products. Many software systems are “walled gardens”, where everything inside the walls are manicured but there is no way to access other gardens.  Of course, outside the walls the landscape is *not* manicured, so a robust integration method is needed. The “gardens” in this case were the Dental CAD/CAM systems of the 1990s.

Dental laboratories pressed for open integrations so they could make effective outsourcing decisions about how to manufacture these products.  Dental CAD customers demanded ways to manufacture their products using the tools or partners they determined was best for their business. Performance tuning for specific equipment may still be needed, however the issue of connectivity between different vendor’s CAD and CAM is no longer an issue.

The same market forces that drove open formats and protocols between digital dentistry tools are now coming to bear on dental imaging and business software.  Some dentists are demanding it in the pages if Inside Dentistry:

Dentists should not be beholden to any company for the ability to access and use their data in the manner that they see fit. (Jablow, 2019)

Improving patient care while meeting the demands of the dental insurance industry will drive this move to open connectivity. For the patient that would be portability of dental records and image.   If market forces are expected to be efficient, then artificial barriers to patient choice need to be reduced.

The application of machine learning algorithms to dental imaging improve the accuracy of diagnosis, which could create demand for earlier interventions as well as reduce unnecessary ones [1].

Lastly, open formats and protocols will lower integration costs for the dentist [2]. Administrative costs are one of the largest drivers of dental (and overall healthcare) costs. In this way the dental industry will take a lead from dental lab owners in demanding  connectivity to improve patient outcomes.

How is open connectivity impacting your business? Tell me about it in the comments!


[1] Shah, Agam, AI Can Lead to Lower Dentist Bills, Wall Street Journal (July, 16, 2019) Accessed 2019-07-19

[2] Jablow, DMD, Martin, Digital Dentistry Data, Inside Dentistry (July 2019) Accessed 2019-07-19



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