In the next 10 years, what is the biggest change dentistry will experience?
FW: We all know healthcare in the U.S. is changing rapidly. Dentistry is no exception. My opinion is that several big changes are forthcoming. Most often, I think about changes that benefit patients and/or providers. Here are three key trends:
1. Implants – The emergence of dental implants will become even more of a mainstream solution for patients who have permanently lost teeth. Dentures are a great solution for many, but implants can be forever, and patients who have them do not face the same challenges denture patients face. If your dentist does a bone graft after an extraction, then even years after that extraction, the doctor can place an implant. Dentists can make you better than you have been for years. Your smile and your bite might even be the best they’ve ever been.
2. Orthodontics – Orthodontics is going through a revolution right now. More general dentists than ever provide orthodontic services using clear retainers. Mail order clear retainers are now available too. Soon, we will begin learning the impact of this revolution on the orthodontic specialty and the prices of orthodontic services.
3. Value-based care – Healthcare in the U.S. cost $3.5 trillion in 2017. You have heard the statistics that the U.S. spends more per capita on healthcare than other wealthy countries and yet systemic health problems like diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol are still on the rise. Better oral health can help solve many of these systemic problems.
Value-based care rewards providers for patient outcomes as opposed to services rendered. Fundamentally, this is the wheelhouse of all dentists. Their job is to prevent disease and restore patients to health. Educating patients about the value of two dental visits per year and the necessity for treating what is diagnosed, as well as the opportunity cost of not doing treatment, becomes an imperative in a value-based system. Giving or getting patients to take home dental products, like better toothbrushes, is just one way the dental field can increase prevention. Patients become more accountable between visits to maintain good oral health. We know that $1 spent on prevention today saves between $8 and $50 in restorative or emergency dental treatment down the road. Marquee Dental gives new patients electric toothbrushes; the type that most dentists and hygienists themselves use because these brushes are superior to manual brushes.
Standardization and metrics to measure patient health and outcomes will become the norm. Dentists will benefit from driving down costs, so operating efficiencies will be rewarded. DSOs are built on both standardization and operating efficiencies. So, more formalized value-based care is coming. To me, that is why DSOs are the future.