What is the true cost of digital sensor ownership?
This is always one of the first questions I hear from my colleagues researching digital intraoral sensors. Digital imaging technologies, including intraoral sensors, are mission critical to patient care and efficient operations and one of the most significant investments that a dental practice will make. As a dentist, I clearly appreciate the need to understand true cost in order to get this decision right.
The challenge in answering this question succinctly is that there are literally dozens of digital intraoral sensors on the market today covering a wide range of price points. There are also a variety of practice specific factors that contribute to the overall cost of these technologies. So, a simple question on sensor cost often requires a bigger analysis on the technology needs of your individual dental practice, your desired budget, and what other imaging technologies you currently own.
Challenges aside, I’ll do my best to outline the factors that impact total costs and provide ranges as to what you’re likely to spend for intraoral sensors.
How Much Does a Sensor Cost?
Most digital intraoral sensors are priced in the $3,000-10,000 range, which includes the sensor itself, basic positioning accessories and an initial period of warranty coverage. This price can increase dramatically if additional items, including imaging software, technical support fees and extended warranty coverage are added.
Keep in mind, this is the cost for a single sensor. If you are a practice with multiple operatories and need several sensors, the cost will be scaled accordingly.
Depending on your practice type, and if you are already utilizing digital technologies, you may or may not need to invest in digital imaging software along with an intraoral sensor. If your practice is transitioning to digital radiography from film, you will definitely need imaging software to capture and display digital radiographs. This software costs, on average, between $2,000 – $4,000 for a single location practice. Again, there can be considerable variation depending on the size of your practice and number of workstations that will need to have imaging software installed.
If your practice is already using digital imaging technologies and you are simply adding an additional sensor or replacing a broken one, you may not need to buy additional software. In this case, make sure that your existing imaging software will integrate with the sensor you are considering, as compatibility issues are common.
When purchasing digital sensors, you’ll need to consider whether there are additional fees for technical support for your sensor when things aren’t working. While support is often included for the first year, there can be additional fees to get technical assistance following the expiration of the manufacturer’s warranty depending on the company you purchase the sensor from. We find that these support fees range from no charge to $800 per sensor per year.
Warranty coverage also varies widely depending on the manufacturer, with out of the box warranty coverage lasting between 1-5 years. Having a good out of the box warranty can be a critical factor in the cost of ownership especially if you might be faced with replacing a high-end sensor costing $10,000 per unit. If you are interested in purchasing an extended warranty, these can often cost up to $2,000 annually per sensor.
The value of longer warranties (whether included in the original sensor price or purchased as an extended warranty) is a function of the replacement cost, the potential cost of dental sensor repair (if repairable) and the likelihood that the sensors are damaged or malfunction after the warranty has expired. A $2,000 annual extended warranty may make sense on a higher priced sensor but makes less sense if the cost of buying a new sensor is on the lower end of the range.
If an out of warranty sensor has only incurred minor damage and is relatively new, repair may be a viable route. However, with sensors that have been in service for 3 to 5 years, the economic trade-off between a repair or replace decision becomes a much tougher call. After 4-5 years, the investment in a newer technology is more likely to be a better long-term investment than a repair.
What’s obvious is that all other things equal, a more comprehensive and longer initial warranty period included in the purchase price is most beneficial.
New Leasing Options
A relatively new option in shopping for digital intraoral sensors is leasing the technology from the manufacturer for a lower upfront cost and a monthly subscription fee. Per sensor, the upfront investment is usually around $2,000 and requires a monthly subscription fee of between $125-$150 per month. This option may be good for practices looking for a lower cost point of entry but usually results in a higher cost-of-ownership over the life of the sensor.
So How Much Should You Expect to Pay for a Digital Intraoral Sensor?
The answer to how much digital intraoral sensors will cost really depends on your practice type and what your needs are.
If you are already using digital sensors and simply adding on a sensor to your existing system, there are very good options starting for as little as $3,000. At the high end, an individual sensor can cost up to $10,000 depending on the manufacturer, brand and feature set.
If your moving from film to digital, the cost will vary with the size of your practice and how many operatories you will need to equip. Let’s consider a practice with 2 operatories going digital – please note this does not include the costs of computer hardware or networking services, which could also be required if you do not already have these systems in place.
- 2 sensors – $6,000-$20,000
- Imaging software – $2,000-$4,000
Total Upfront Costs – $8,000-$24,000
Be sure to research and compare warranty and support terms and associated fees to better understand add-on annual or monthly costs once the initial coverage periods expire.
- Technical Support – No Charge up to $800 per year per sensor
- Initial Warranty – 1 to 5 Years with purchase
- Extended Warranty – up to $2,000 annually per sensor
While these are general numbers, I hope they provide a good idea where to start as you begin shopping for sensors. I also hope this article arms you with some key questions to ask manufacturers as you move forward with the purchasing process.
If you need a quote for an individual sensor, or a complete digital radiography system including software, we’re here and happy to help. Our team is available via the link below or at 877-APTERYX.