The FlashRay, high-res digital intraoral sensor by Dental TI held in hand.

How long should an Intraoral Dental Sensor last?

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If you have not already added digital x-ray to your practice, determining how to properly budget for this investment can be tricky. If you have been digital for at least 10 years, then you have most likely experienced unexpected sensor failures and unexpected expenditures on replacements. Given the fact that some sensors offer extended warranties while others offer prorated warranties, getting to a budgeted, predictable monthly cost can be difficult.

Even sensors that cost twice what other sensors cost do not offer twice the life of their less expensive counterparts. What is the expected life of this technology? I have customers that have had their original sensors for 10+ years. I also have customers who have experienced failures inside of two years. In general, a five year life expectancy is fairly common with most sensors. Dilligent handling and care is an important assumption in this five year equation; however, even with proper care, sensors may still fail prior to their life expectancy being realized. Often times sensors will fail intermittently and create a lot of staff frustration as they try and determine the cause of the failure.

The unpredictability of sensor failures makes budgeting for the technology difficult. I know many dentists who abhor the thought of monthly payments and write a check for everything they buy. Others finance the investment. At the end of the day– regardless of how they are purchased– sensors have a monthly cost associated with their lifetime use. For instance, if a doctor purchases a leading brand sensor for $10K, and pays $1695 per year after the first year for 4 additional years of warranty, then he/she has spent $16,780 or $279.66 monthly. Now, let’s look at the lower end of the cost spectrum with, say, a SuniRay2 sensor with a prorated warranty. I am using this sensor as my example because I know the numbers associated with it. This sensor can be purchased for $4995 with a 2 year warranty. Let’s assume one failure at 3 years. With the prorated warranty offered by Dental TI, the doctor would pay an additional $3000 for a brand new replacement sensor with a new two year warranty. His or her total cost for five years would be $7995 or $133.25 per month. In the first scenario, the cost of taking x-rays is 2X the second scenario. 

Given the above range of monthly cost associated with one sensor, what do you budget for the technology? If you could have a new sensor every three years and have the gurantee that you will never pay more than a specified amount in the event of a sensor failure, would that be desirable? What is the monthly amount per sensor that you would prefer to budget for?

I hope this information helps you in determining the useful life of digital x­-ray sensors. If you have any questions regarding an intraoral dental sensor, please give our office a call at 1.800.672.5733. 

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