New report from the ADA analyzes present and future of dental profession

A new report from the ADA could spell big changes in the dentistry profession.The dental profession in the United States is in the midst of a radical transition, according to a recent report from the American Dental Association, titled, A Profession in Transition: Key Forces Reshaping the Dental Landscape.1

The report was part of the ADA’s 2015-2020 strategic plan development process. Exploring current trends and projecting the future of the profession, the report was the first of its kind by the ADA, as the association attempts to prepare dentists and certified and registered dental assistants for coming developments in the profession.

Key findings

One of the most notable findings was the inverse trend in dental visits between children and young adults. While children are gaining more access to dental services, mainly through expanded public insurance programs, working-age adults, especially those at the younger and poorer end of the spectrum, have steadily decreased their use of dental care. The latter trend is mainly due to swiftly eroding private dental policies and options.

Slowed or flat spending in the dental profession over the past decade has led dentists to search for more efficient ways to care for their patients, as well as the consolidation of dental practices.

While the Affordable Care Act is expected to continue to make dental care more accessible for children, it does not address the issues involving adult access to care. At the same time, the new law should lead to better coordination of care, which would then help bring dental and general health standards more in line with one another.

Speaking to the report’s conclusions, ADA President Dr. Robert A. Faiella said in a statement, “Given the significant environmental changes on the horizon, including expected changes in the dental care delivery system, this analysis shows that the dental profession must prepare by shaping a proactive strategy to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead.”2

Report’s impact on dentistry

The emphasis on increased rates of care among children could lead to a rise in popularity for pediatric dentistry. That means both dentistry and dental assistant programs will have to offer more training and education options in that area.

Further research by the ADA also indicated that the ACA could lead to expanded dental services for adults if the nation follows Massachusetts’ example. That state’s health care law, which the federal version was largely modeled after, led to an 11 percent increase in the use of dental care services among poor adults between 2004 and 2010.3 If similar results are seen nationally there could be a reversal in the trend of fewer young and poor adults having access to care.

1 American Dental Association, “A Profession in Transition: Key Forces Reshaping the Dental Landscape,” Aug. 2013. http://www.ada.org/sections/professionalResources/pdfs/Escan2013_ADA_Full.pdf
2 Dentistry IQ, “ADA Releases Landmark Report on the Changing Dental Landscape,” Sept. 17, 2013. http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2013/09/ada-releases-landmark-report-on-the-changing-dental-landscape.html
3 PR Newswire, “Research by ADA Health Economists Shows Massachusetts Health Reform Increased Adults’ Access to Dental Care,” Sept. 9, 2013. http://www.sacbee.com/2013/09/09/5721049/research-by-ada-health-economists.html

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