GENERATIONAL CHANGES COMING TO DENTISTRY

Generational changes coming to dentistryIt’s an inescapable fact that changes are brought to every single industry periodically. Perhaps no larger change can occur, however, than the ushering in of new professionals that comes with one generation retiring and another taking the reins. That certainly seems to be the case currently for students looking to enter the dentistry field.

As a generation of dentists who came to power during the peak of the baby boomer period prepare for retirement, new students are becoming primed and ready to enter the workforce as certified dental assistants on their way to being dentists. While this is certainly an exciting development, it’s important that both dental students and patrons of dental practices stay abreast of some of the changes coming along with these new professionals.

Take a look at some of the more interesting stories emerging within the field:

Work​-life integration and accessibility

According to Dental Economics, 88 percent of millennials surveyed have indicated that “work-life integration” is one of the benefits that they desire in a new job.1 Effectively, this means that they want a job that they can balance well with their lives. This has been an increasing trend in recent years. Though it is driven by a number of factors, it seems to be chiefly bolstered by the fact that more and more professions are becoming incredibly flexible in the ways that their employees report for duty.

For example, many creative professions allow individuals to work from home a few days a week or month, provided that they’re getting their work done in a timely and effective manner. This proposes an interesting dilemma for the dental industry, as dental work, obviously, cannot be provided from the home.

While there may not be an incredible amount of this sort of work from home integration in dentistry, it will be interesting to see how the dental industry addresses these employee desires. It may not be unreasonable to think that dentists will make themselves more accessible to patient concerns and questions via enhanced forms of technology, allowing them greater accessibility to their work outside of practice hours.

Fluctuations in international demand

In many countries, dentistry is an extremely high-need profession. What this means, effectively, is that for a number of reasons the industry will require a massive influx of new certified professionals as time moves on. In the U.S., this is driven by the retirement of many baby boomers who made their livings as dentists over the past several decades. In other areas, it may be due to a lower accessibility to education, meaning that dental professionals are often needed to be brought in from other countries where they can receive adequate training in their craft.

In some nations, however, there is actually an oversupply of dental professionals. For example, a report from the Australian Dental Association has indicated that the nation will have a stark oversupply of dentists for at least the next decade.2 While this isn’t a huge problem for students studying in America, it does mean that it might be harder to get a job in dentistry if you’re set on working in the land down under. With that said, it’s reasonable to assume that these international trends affecting dentists will also affect dental assistants.

Technological innovation

More so than for any of the generations that preceded them, millennials have come up in life abreast of incredible advances in technology. Whether it’s personal or professional, these innovations have an incredible reach and effect on the world that we live in. For those entering the dentistry profession, this will mean not only an increased level of communication with patients and patrons, but also an influx of big data utilization in their practices.

For example, dentists will now be able to more simply use large amounts of data to determine best practices in scheduling appointments, setting care routines and ordering supplies.These changes could directly impact dental assistants, who are often put in charge of these practices. It will certainly be interesting to see how these changes unfold as a new generation enters the workforce.

1 Dulde, Ryan, Dental Economics, ‘Millenials in dentistry, when generations collide,’ Dec. 22, 2014, www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-104/issue-12/features/millennials-in-dentistry-when-generations-collide.html

2 Donovan, Samantha, ABC Australia, ‘Australia to have a dentist glut until at least 2025,’ Dec. 19, 2014, www.abc.net.au/am/content/2014/s4151784.htm

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