It’s amazing how much our lives have been transformed in just a short period of time – particularly in relation to technology. The dental industry is set to change over the next 10 -15 years, with the arrival of new healthcare procedures for patients. As new graduates today settle into their dental careers, they will experience a very different industry emerging.
Planning for the future can tell us where to focus our energies when building a clinic, recruiting staff, and undertaking extra training. And while we can’t time travel, we can identify some major trends that are likely to shape the future. The biggest trends that will impact the clinic of the future will be technological and scientific, as well as demographic.
Thinking about how the typical clinic will look, what specialisations and skills will be in demand, and what will be most important to patients, can help us to prepare for these coming changes. Let’s take a look through our dusty crystal ball and see what the future has in store.
There will be an increase in the number of professional dentists over the coming years, and the age of retirement will be later, making the industry much more competitive.
Give patients more
“No longer will it be enough to offer the standard services”
To attract and retain patients, clinics need to start thinking of new and creative ways to add more value to their services. No longer will it be enough to offer the standard services, increased competition will require a higher level of comfort and patient-care, and a focus on promoting that to new patients.
Be a specialist
To compete, clinics will also be driven to specialise. One way clinics have already started to differentiate themselves is on price, with clinics now offering budget services or focusing on the higher end of the consumer market. Choosing to specialise in a particular area of dental – pediatric dental, oral dental surgery, prosthodontics, or cosmetic dentistry will further help clinics to differentiate themselves and gain a reputation as experts.
Patients can be a reluctant bunch. It’s estimated that only a third of patients attend the dentist regularly, often due to concerns about cost and anxiety about pain.
“Clinics which offer more customised and empathetic patient care will be more attractive to patients”
How dentists communicate and support their patients is going to be more important in the future. Clinics which offer more customised and empathetic patient care will be more attractive to patients who are willing to shop around. For clinics, this requires creating a positive, supportive culture and employing clinicians who have a high level of empathy and interpersonal skills. Treating patients with compassion and kindness will be priorities.
For patients concerned about cost, treatment plans need to be customised to meet their financial circumstances. This requires that clinicians and dentists establish positive relationships of trust with their patients.
Reduce patient anxiety
Investing in new forms of pain and anxiety management will help anxious patients who associate a dental visit with pain. Research has shown that Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) can be more effective in reducing pain in patients, than the use of traditional pain killing drugs like morphine. VRET helps anxious patients feel more relaxed and calm during their treatment, and has even been found to successfully reduce anxiety over time.
“In the future, the prevention of oral diseases will have a more important role”
Where previously treatment has been the main focus, in the future, the prevention of oral diseases will have a more important role to play. New research has revealed a link between oral health and the development of other non dental-related diseases, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, dementia and various cancers.
“Genetic screening practices are now available that can show whether a patient will have a susceptibility to certain oral diseases. “
New genetic screening practices are now available that can show whether a patient will have a susceptibility to certain oral diseases. Together with increased knowledge of the link between diet and lifestyle, dentistry in the future will lean more heavily on strategies for prevention, as well as education. This gives a new important role to play for dentistry in promoting whole body health.
Clinics can help their patients by staying up to date with the latest research and by putting prevention at the centre of conversations. Being able to demonstrate good communication skills and rapport with patients will be important for clinics in recruiting skilled staff.
New inventions that can support behaviour change will be highly valuable. For example the smart toothbrush encourages better oral health by monitoring a person’s brushing technique and sending the results to an app so they can be analysed.
Science & Technology
“3D printing, bioprinting and regenerative dental techniques will in some cases completely revolutionise the practice of dentistry.”
Exciting developments in dental science and technology will see breakthrough dental treatments emerge in the future, including 3D printing, bioprinting and regenerative dental techniques.These will significantly reduce the time taken for some treatments, and in some cases completely revolutionise the practice of dentistry.
In the future, 3D printing will potentially enable crowns, dentures and dental implants to be printed onsite, within the clinic, rather than being sent away. This will speed up procedures, enabling some treatments to be completed on the same day, rather than over several dental visits.
“These techniques will revolutionise the practice of traditional dental treatments, enabling the regrowth of dentine to fill a cavity, or the repair of tooth pulp.”
Regenerative dental techniques which encourage the repair and regeneration of dental tissues, have exciting implications for the practice of dentistry in the future. These techniques will revolutionise the practice of traditional dental treatments, enabling the regrowth of dentine to fill a cavity, or the repair of tooth pulp. The holy grail is the creation of a completely new biological tooth, which may be possible through bioengineering and implantation procedures.
Everything old is new again
“It will be the quality of service and the patient experience that will continue to have the greatest influence on a dental clinic’s success. “
Our dusty crystal ball has shown us a future with technological advances set to change the face of dental forever, particularly the promise of regenerating teeth and tissue. One of the most exciting trends will be the increasing role of dentistry in disease prevention strategies and whole body health.
How the future unfolds is rarely as simple as how we imagine it and there are some things that always stay the same. As always, it will be the quality of service and the patient experience that will continue to have the greatest influence on a dental clinic’s success. Technology is going to bring about all sorts of exciting advances, but it will be patient communication and investing in the patient experience that will be one of the most important ways clinics will differentiate themselves and attract patients in the future. Clinicians and dentists will need a high level of empathy and an ability to establish rapport with their patients in order to navigate an increasingly competitive industry.