CURRENT TRENDS AFFECTING THE FUTURE OF DENTISTRY

There are many changes currently taking place within the dental industry.As the dental industry continues to flourish, new trends are continuing to emerge that will shape the future for students currently enrolled in dental hygienist schools.

The job outlook for aspiring dentists appears to be better than ever, as the U.S. Department of Labor projects that the number of U.S. dentists will increase by 16 percent by 2022, with an average median pay currently estimated to be just under $150,000 a year1.

The factors that are creating the demand for more dentists are vast, ranging from the increasingly aging population’s need for extensive oral care to insurance coverage making dentistry more accessible and affordable. Anyone who is currently working their way toward receiving their dental assistant degree should be aware of some of the current trends that are sure to make a lasting impact within the future of dentistry.

DSOs and Group Practices

For the majority of the 20th century, dental facilities and practices were known as more of a one person operation, with various assistants available to help the lead dentist with the initial teeth cleansing processes. That paradigm has radically shifted in the 21st century, especially within the past five years, as spikes in dental service organizations (DSOs) and more group practices have significantly risen in popularity.

These types of dental organizations are attracting more employees as well as patients, primarily due to higher acceptance rates for applications from recently graduated dental students as well as better affordability for customers.

Another one of the more alluring reasons why younger dentists are flocking to DSOs is because they can provide experience in more ways than just treating patients. Mark Censoprano, the chief marketing officer for Aspen Dental Management, spoke to Becker’s Dental Review about how recently graduated dentists can learn more about the business end of dentistry by joining these group-focused organizations.

“More dentists are now embracing DSOs to help them become more efficient, reduce costs and help keep up with demand,” Censoprano said in an interview with Becker’s Dental Review. “Plus, while dentists are trained to have clinical expertise, they aren’t necessarily learning how to run a successful business, so partnering with an organization like ours provides access to the support and mentorship they need to become successful and build a career.”2

Technological Advances

Technology is changing the way any health care provider works and researches within their respected industry. Dentistry is no different, as a wide variety of tools, gadgets and software continue to change the course of the practice. One of the more common examples of this technological integration into dental work is “digital dentistry,” a broad term that refers to the ever-expanding incorporation of computer or digital devices into daily dental practice.

A recent, specific example of the progression of dental technology can be seen with recent research of Google Glass potentially becoming a routine accessory for dentists across the country. Dental researchers have explored how a combination of a pair of glasses from the search engine tycoon along with a set of dental loupes attached to them can be extremely beneficial for both educational and dental practices possibilities.3

For starters, dental schools can be able to stream live oral surgeries from a dentists wearing Google Glass straight to the classroom, for students to observe and take notes. Other advances can be traced to everything from CAD/CAM dentistry (computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing), digital radiography to electric hand​-pieces for aiding dentists in surgeries or implants.

While many of these forms of technology are already seeping their way into classrooms and dental offices, the future remains to be seen how quickly these advances can be implemented into dental practices all over the country.

Policies and Payments

Much of the change within the dental industry doesn’t have anything to do with dentists or technology at all. The evolution of insurance coverage and payment options in the U.S. is certainly having a profound impact upon the industry, especially as millions of more Americans are now able to receive dental coverage than ever before.

The relationship between a person’s income and how often they visit a dentist has been well documented, and the American Dental Association has noted that dentist appointments were continuously dropping for poorer adults in decades prior.4

Arguably no demographic has benefited from recent policy and payment changes in the dental industry than children. The ADA reports that more than four out of 10 children in the U.S. are currently available to receive dental care through public dental coverage, a number that’s higher than ever before and could increase due to further implementation of the Affordable Care Act. With more children able to take advantage of dental care, the need for more properly educated and trained dentists will only increase in the future.

1 http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/dentists.htm

2 “Success in dentistry — Big trends & opportunities for 2015,” by Laura Dyrda, Becker’s Dental Review, Dec. 30, 2014. http://www.beckersdental.com/news-and-analysis/32369-success-in-dentistry-big-trends-opportunities-for-2015.html

3  “The dawning of Google Glass loupes for the dental professional,” by Kevin Henry, Dental Products Report, May 1, 2014. http://www.dentalproductsreport.com/dental/article/dawning-google-glass-loupes-dental-professional

4 “Critical Trends Affecting the Future of Dentistry,” Dr. Joel Diringer, Dr. Kathy Phipps, Dr. Becca Carsel, Diringer and Associates, May 2013. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Member%20Center/FIles/Escan2013_Diringer_Full.ashx

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