So, You Want to Buy a New Computer?

By Larry Darnell, FDA Director of Information Systems

Lately, there has been a greater need to have better computers. Perhaps it’s because so many more people are working from home or more students are doing virtual education. In fact, I get asked this question at least once a week within my network of influence. In response, I have some questions to ask them: What do you want to do with it? What is the purpose? Do you want it to be portable or will it stay at the house? These are critical questions to answer for yourself. Other questions arise, too. Do you want a laptop or a desktop? Would a tablet or a Chromebook meet your needs? How much do you want to spend? Usually, the answer becomes clear just from this initial questioning.

If you are looking to work from home or you have students doing virtual school, the answer will generally be a laptop. Why? Because it’s portable, flexible and most laptops can do what you need. I’m sure you’ve seen advertisements for Chromebooks, and they’re economically priced. A Chromebook is essentially an internet-only computer where the browser is the operating systems (as opposed to a Windows or a Mac operating system). Chromebooks have their uses, primarily in educational settings, where the subset of applications are solely internet-based. If you want to install other applications that aren’t browser-based, you’re going to want a laptop.

What about a tablet? Tablets are more powerful, but they’re restricted to applications that run on the tablet (either Android or Apple IOS). You can use a tablet like a laptop, but there are obviously things a tablet cannot do. If you can accept those limitations, then a tablet might work.

Why not a desktop? Well, if you plan on seldom moving your computer and have no plans to pop down to the coffee shop with your desktop in tow, then that could work. However, most people want the flexibility to have their computer be mobile, thus, a laptop is a better choice. You also can buy accessories like dual monitors and external keyboards and mice to make your laptop have that desktop feel.

Now that I have sold you on a laptop (cha-ching!), what more do you need to know? Size matters. An 11-inch laptop and a 17-inch laptop are just that different. An 11-inch screen may be too small to see, and a 17-inch laptop may be too heavy to easily lug around. You must do what is right for you based on how you plan to use it. Go to a store where you can see them and pick them up. You don’t have to buy from there, but you can try out the look and feel.

Should you choose Windows or Mac? That question often is a matter of personal preference and money these days because Macs and PCs mostly can do the same things. A Mac is more expensive but quite honestly, requires less maintenance by the user. I bought a Mac for my wife years ago because I was tired of spending all my free time fixing her Windows PC. A PC is significantly less expensive and for some, that alone is the deciding factor.

What about all those letters and numbers and two and three letter abbreviations? Those things matter, since you’ll want a better processor. If it’s an Intel processor, they go from I3 to I9 and generally, the higher the number, the better. Same is true with RAM — 4 GB will never be enough. You need at least 8 GB of RAM, and preferably more. Your hard drive size isn’t as important as it used to be, and there’s now solid state drives (SSD) that are fast but have limited capacity. You always can add an external drive to store files, but you need to get enough hard drive space to store applications, so 256 GB is a minimum for a hard drive.

Video capabilities also matter. Laptop video cards are underwhelming, so look for one with a better video card, also measured in gigabytes of RAM.

Another factor to consider is the number and type of ports the laptop has on it. You need at least three USB ports and an HDMI port for video output capabilities. All laptops have wireless capability built in and some have a standard network jack as well. If you are concerned, look at the battery life as well.

One of my recent tricks of the trade is to buy gaming laptops for everyday use. They come with more than enough processor, RAM and video capabilities to play high-end games, but that also means they can do all that you want, too.

If you have time to make a purchase, I also recommend you get it from a reputable seller. The cheapest one on Amazon Marketplace may not be the best option for you. Google the make and model number you are interested in and see what people are saying about it. There are manufacturers I won’t buy from just because of the reported problems. You can look at back-to-school or holiday specials but often, they’re selling a lower-class PC with limitations. Caveat emptor.

I admit the options and information can be overwhelming, but remember, you will use this computer every day. We all know a computer can be the greatest source of frustration imaginable, so do your research, get what you need and revel in the joy of how much easier this purchase has made your life.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, Sept/Oct 2020. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view the Today’s FDA archives.

Total Health Dentistry: What’s it All About?

By Dr. Susan Maples

What a strange and turbulent time to be in dental practice and leadership. All eyes are on us as to how we navigate for ourselves and our at-risk patients through this systemic disease threat. By now you know that dentists and hygienists are at the very top of the list of occupationally hazardous professions for COVID-19. This leaves many of us feeling anxious and wanting to help.

This is a unique time — when every person asks themselves if they would be at risk of death or disability with an inadvertent COVID-19 exposure. We know that that the most at-risk segment of our population is those who are afflicted with airway disorders, obesity, insulin resistance (the precursor to diabetes) and metabolic syndrome. If you live a typical American lifestyle, these risks more than likely include YOU. But what does any of this have to do with the mouth? Everything!

“The mouth illuminates all the signs, and once you ‘see’ them, it makes it impossible to ‘unsee’ them.”

It wasn’t too long ago that dentists thought the mouth was its own private domain, that not much of what went on in there was linked to the rest of the body — and vice versa. Today, we understand that the most prevalent life-altering and life-threatening conditions we encounter have early telltale signs in the mouth. If you haven’t yet explored these, hang on to your seat — the evidence is staggering.

Only a short time ago, dentists and hygienists didn’t know (for examples) that:

  • Most sleep and airway disorders can be prevented by addressing structural/development concerns in newborns, babies and toddlers.
  • Tooth decay is a preventable bacterial infection passed to babies from their caregivers’ saliva.
  • Periodontal disease is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, dementia and erectile dysfunction.
  • Diabetes has a bidirectional relationship with periodontal disease, each making the other worse.
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection from oral sex would replace smoking as the single biggest risk factor for oral pharyngeal cancer.

And this list goes on and on!

Our patients’ weakened host-immune response is mostly a result of the most common ailments in our culture: oxygen/sleep deprivation; a defective, sugared-up food supply; and, a sedentary lifestyle. When a patient visits you for his or her three- or six-month preventive appointment, they bring you all the evidence. The mouth illuminates all the signs, and once you “see” them, it makes it impossible to “unsee” them.

It’s time to embrace a personalized model for dental care, focused on far more than your teeth, gums, joints and muscles. By learning to identify the countless links and causes between systemic health and oral health, your entire dental team will soon play critical roles in helping each one of your patients (from age 1-100) live a healthier, happier and sexier life!

In today’s health care environment, which is focused on using a host of medications to put out small fires, helping your patients identify the root cause of their diseases becomes a rare GIFT. From there, helping individualize a wellness track does several things for your practice:

  • With your total health reputation, you will attract patients who value their health from a wide sweep around your practice location.
  • By earning trust, you’ll also earn the right to perform some significant restorative dentistry.
  • By collaborating with other health professionals, you’ll build a remarkable network of co-referral relationships and enhance the quality of your patient base.
  • By focusing on integrative health, you’ll add value to the hygienists’ role and enhanced hygiene profitability through adjunctive testing.
  • Through developing this sought-after niche, you’ll get the golden keys to insurance independence, if that is something you seek.

If you thought enhancing a smile was exciting, try giving someone a new lease on a vital life, while you restore their mouth to optimal health as well. It won’t take long before it becomes your new passion. Total health dentistry is more than a compelling morale builder — it’s a way of life.


Dr. Maples is the founder of Total Health Academy and developer of Hands-on Learning Lab and can be reached at susan@drsusanmaples.com. She is a speaker at the 2021 Florida Dental Convention and will be presenting three courses. On Friday, June 25, “Seeing in the Mouth with Super Powered Eyes: Total Health Dentistry” is at 2 p.m. On Saturday, June 26, “Slaying Dragons: Acid Reflux and Diabetes Detection” is at 9 a.m. and “Creating Powerful Co-referral Relationships with Medical Professionals: Becoming a Practice of Distinction” is at 2 p.m. Register at floridadentalconvention.com.

Reprinted from Today’s FDA, May/June 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view the Today’s FDA archives.

Leadership Can Take on Many Forms

By Dr. Angie McNeight

Leadership in the dental field takes on many forms. From leading our own team members in the office every day to our involvement in organized dentistry and in our communities, we find ourselves called to be leaders more often than we realize. Effective leaders are passionate, committed, inquisitive, solicitous and available. They lead with integrity, handle conflict fairly and maintain confidentiality where required. While some of these qualities are inherent to the individual’s personality, many of these traits and abilities can be improved through learning opportunities and practice.

“I’ve found that the most important piece of leadership is cultivating personal relationships. Becoming genuinely interested in others and getting to know them on a personal level builds trust and rapport.”

Leadership within a dental practice is frequently combined with management, and the lines are commonly blurred between the two. Leaders formulate ideas and motivate their teams to understand the vision they have set forth. Managers focus on the day-to-day activities, setting measurable goals to report success. In small businesses, these two roles often are combined and frequently overlap.

My partner, Dr. Ryan Caudill, and I own and manage our office, and we work hard to be as organized and clear as possible to our 18 team members. We spend time training them, outlining expectations and cultivating problem-solving skills to improve self-awareness. Our morning huddles, monthly team meetings, and yearly staff reviews keep everyone focused on common goals and ensure processes are consistently followed. We also take each team member to lunch once a year on their own with the doctors to get to know each other better. Our yearly patient appreciation parties and team-building days outside the office setting are some of our favorite memories together and help strengthen these relationships. I am a more effective leader when I better understand the person I am leading.

Drs. Ryan Caudill (center left) and Angie McNeight (center right) along with their team.

Leadership outside the office in our communities and professional organizations can be a challenge with varying personalities and leadership styles. Staying positive and focusing on the task at hand are helpful in achieving a favorable result that benefits everyone. At Dentists’ Day on the Hill each year, I am reminded that community leaders are looking to us for guidance on critical issues, and actively listening to understand others is the first step.

I’ve found that the most important piece of leadership is cultivating personal relationships. Becoming genuinely interested in others and getting to know them on a personal level builds trust and rapport. I aim to bring others into the conversation as much as possible, creating a safe space to voice opinions while encouraging others to listen and reflect attentively. This is especially important in our virtual (Zoom) meeting spaces, where having your camera on, being engaged and calling on those who may be more reserved is essential for ensuring everyone’s perspectives are heard and team decisions are made. As a leader, I also strive to be as available and responsive as possible, ensuring fellow colleagues and community members have my cellphone number so they can easily reach me at any time. Responding to emails, texts, phone calls and social media messages in a timely manner (aka as quickly as possible) is a vital sign of respect. 

As the Leadership Development Committee (LDC) chair of the Florida Dental Association (FDA), my charge is to improve leadership within our association. Our yearly LEAD: Leaders Emerging Among Dentistry event is one of the opportunities you can take part in to improve your own leadership skills with seminars related to public speaking, social media for leaders and effective meeting management. As a committee, we work together to find people who are interested in leadership positions within the FDA and help guide them on their leadership journeys. We also collect applications and nominate candidates for the speaker of the house, treasurer/treasurer-elect and editor positions of the FDA.

One of the most important jobs of every volunteer leader is to find your own replacement. You know what it takes to do the job better than anyone, so finding the right person to fill your shoes will ensure they continue on a forward path, building on what you put in place. Encouraging colleagues to join a committee is wonderful but mentoring them along the way is what truly fosters leadership. The LDC helps find these leaders and cultivates them for success.

I strive every day to improve my own leadership skills through building relationships, communicating clearly and showing integrity. Reflecting on your leadership strengths as well as areas that need improvement will help you become the best leader you can for your team, your colleagues and your community.


Reprinted from Today’s FDA, May/June 2021. Visit floridadental.org/publications to view this issue and the Today’s FDA archives.