By Susan Richards
"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." – Albert Einstein
The wise dental professional understands they must keep up with change to survive and thrive in today's world. Not only does technology advance at a breakneck pace, but the COVID-19 pandemic gave rise to unexpected challenges and opportunities in the oral healthcare field.
What kind of changes can we expect in 2023 for the dental industry? We'll look at the interesting trends on the horizon and how they may impact your practice.
Don't blink, or you'll find yourself trailing in the wake of technological advances in dentistry. The modern dentist may have a substantial tech wish list that includes the latest in intraoral cameras or 3D printers for same-day molds and crowns creation, but there is more sci-fi-level progress happening that will shape the future of dentistry:
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to evolve and become more accessible. Last year, the first AI auto-charting product designed to interpret radiographs and intraoral images for better evaluation by the dental professional was cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Robots are invading – in a good way! The FDA also paved the way for a company to implement a robot for bone reduction in dental implant surgery. And on a much smaller scale, microrobot research could revolutionize oral hygiene.
- Laser dentistry has shown benefits that include less pain, bleeding, and risk of infection while speeding up the healing process. Recent reports project the dental laser market to reach $345mil by 2028.
- Research in regenerative dentistry shows great promise in biologically repairing and replacing teeth and bone and even treating life-threatening diseases.
Improving the Patient Experience
There has been a renewed focus on attracting dental patients with a positive, interactive experience that starts before they even get to the dentist's chair. Trends we'll see more of in 2023:
- Dental simulators have grown in popularity thanks to the aligner industry. Patients can see what their smile will look like after restoration or orthodontics and be all the more motivated to proceed with the treatment plan.
- More dentists are enhancing the waiting room atmosphere by providing videos, aromatherapy, and more to put the anxious patient at ease.
- Headphones are great, but virtual reality (VR) units can immerse patients in a calming experience that can reduce their anxiety during treatment.
- Advances in sedation dentistry medications and training continue to provide help for millions of fearful patients.
Outsourcing and Automation
One of the biggest stories in the industry continues to be the staffing shortages due to the fallout of COVID-19. As a result, dental professionals will look to fill some gaps by outsourcing and automating certain processes.
- Improvements in patient management software have freed up staff members with automated billing, appointment reminders, and patient portals. The use of chatbots to field patient queries in healthcare was estimated at 75-90% in 2022.
- Hiring an outside marketing team to stay on top of the rapidly changing digital platforms makes sense, especially when they specialize in the industry.
- On-demand temporary staffing solutions will continue to gain popularity until the dental staff hiring pool expands.
- Many newer dentists are seeking the partnership of group practices and dental support organizations (DSOs) to ease the financial load of equipment, student debt, and other overhead costs.
Oral Health and Overall Wellness
Dentists have long understood the inextricable connection between oral health and overall physical health and wellbeing. Recent news has indicated that knowledge may become more mainstream.
- A long-overdue proposal is pushing dental care for seniors to be covered under Medicare.
- The University of California San Francisco took a major step toward comprehensive care by merging dental and medical records into one electronic system. Hopefully, this will become common in the coming years.
The ability to change and adapt has never been more important. Indeed, DOCS Education was able to roll with the tumultuous circumstances of 2020 to provide continued education through our Interactive (((Live))) Streaming format. As the dental industry will undoubtedly face new challenges, 2023 will offer new solutions and opportunities.
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Author: Susan Richards is a staff writer at DOCS Education. With over 20 years of experience in local journalism and business marketing, Susan's career includes award-winning feature writing, as well as creating content with context for a wide variety of industries.