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The Opinionated Hardware Purchasing Guide for Dentists

First of all, What’s your technical IQ?

Low – You don’t know what you’re doing

Do not feel bad. This is most often the case. You went to Dental School! not Technical College!

You have a vision for computers in your practice, but you are not really sure about how to make that happen.

If this is you, you need to find a good systems integrator and trust them. While your dental supplier can and probably will try to sell you exactly what you need, it’s a really good idea to get a second opinion from an independent mind. Ask others in your area if there a good local shop, or find a good national one like The Digital Dentist – Dental Technology Consultants

I cannot stress this enough: Second opinion, get one! The money you save could be your own.

Medium – You kinda know what you’re doing

If you and/or your spouse is at home with technology, and you are not relying on a systems integrator to pick and choose for you, then read on.

High – You definitely know what you’re doing

You think nothing of building a computer from spare parts and setting up a network is cake. You’ve probably tried to run your office on Linux at some point. If you don’t run your practice on Open Dental you are at least a fan. Read on.

What’s your philosophy of hardware?

It must be the best, because it’s the most expensive

  • Buy high end only.
  • I hate to tell you this, but you are most likely spending way too much on your office systems.
  • I’m guessing that you loved the system that your dental supplier installed for you.
  • If you get personal satisfaction from looking at those super high-end computers that render your appointment book, then rock on. You are excused from the rest of this message. Oh, and I am available for consulting.

One machine to bind them all

  • Buy medium-to-high end machines, and use only a few models within your practice. Optimally, use the same model everywhere.
  • This is the path that most systems integrators follow. This greatly reduces the number of variables when things go wrong (and they will — they always will). This makes it easier for your integrator to quickly diagnose and repair any problem that might come up.
  • This is a fine approach. Particularly if your tech IQ is medium to low. You will be happy you followed your integrator’s advice especially when something goes wrong.

Buy cheap. Buy Often.

  • Buy the cheapest machines that are suitable for the task. Buy more than you need. When one of them breaks, simply replace it with one of your spares and you’re back in business.
  • When you run out of spares, buy more of the current cheap machines (which will be far better than your original machines).
  • This philosophy is suited to those who’s technical IQ is very high. They are prepared to fix the little issues that develop and tinker with things until they work.
  • This system will save you lots of money, but potentially cost you (or your spouse) some time.

Pick and choose.

  • Spend a reasonable amount on your server.
  • Spend a lot less on the front desk
  • Spend a little more on the ops
  • You have a high Technical IQ and understand the Total Cost of Ownership in terms of money and time.
  • My suggestion would be to make up your wish list, and have it reviewed by a systems integrator or technical friend for completeness.

What’s my opinion?

We used to be the Buy Cheap/Buy Often practice and let me tell you: We have saved a ton of money over neighboring practices that took the “High End Only” and “One Machine” approaches. As I have gotten older and find less and less enjoyment from tinkering with the machines at the office, I have transitioned into the “Pick and Choose” variety. I will spend more initially to save time and energy later.

We run a large practice (1 Dentist, 3 Hygienists and supporting staff) on 15 PCs. Our initial purchase included 8 refurbished eMachines purchased from in 2003 for $249 each. They run Dentrix 11.1, Windows XP Pro and Apteryx XVLite without any issues. Some later machines have been Dell Dimensions and some custom built jobs that were extra small. We never spent more than $600 on any one machine (other than the server).

Posted in Digital Office.