Kirill Zaydenman, VP of innovation at CareQuest Institute for Oral Health, shares that “more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations.” In short, dentistry is essential to our overall health and wellness. Additionally, the healthcare industry is constantly innovating and expanding. As new research and technologies emerge, screening and treatment improve. This also applies to dentistry, which means dentists must modernize and continually improve or fear becoming irrelevant and unable to serve the needs of their patients best.
As with any significant change, challenges and hurdles must be overcome to succeed in the future. Current concerns regarding this forward movement include a perceived lack of innovation, patient friction, and a failure to establish a comprehensive care team. Let’s address these challenges and discuss how to overcome them.
Lack of Innovation
For many years, dentistry didn’t evolve much. We developed standard practices and procedures, thought we understood all we could about oral anatomy, and advanced from there. However, new research and technology have shown us otherwise, and the future of dentistry must be driven in part by innovation. Some dental professionals have been hesitant to evolve, as any medical professional is when new research emerges and debunks previously accepted science. In contrast, individuals from the business side are finding more opportunities to come in, usually via DSO organizations, and drive this industry forward.
That said, the scarcity mindset puts this innovation at risk as healthcare professionals are hesitant to change their practices so long as patients continue coming in. After all, why incur additional expenses, have to retrain your staff, and deal with all the possible pushbacks, time, and energy expended to evolve if not absolutely necessary?
While this is understandable, the future healthcare of the human population is even more critical. Dentists and other healthcare professionals must ask themselves if we are paying enough attention to the quality of care. Be proactive and think about the industry five years from now: Where are our shortcomings, and how can we provide a better patient experience? In addition, what new technologies must be invented, and what research needs to be expanded to ensure a healthier future?
Each of these questions must be answered. Who will be the ones to do it and drive the industry forward for the sake of all humanity? As the prevalence of heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more rises, we need to ask ourselves the tough questions and encourage our medical personnel to continue to innovate.
When taking a step back, this might seem overwhelming at first, but the key to elevating is educating. Education is key to providing our patients with a more diverse, collaborative, comprehensive care program. Additionally, we’ve begun to understand that the most significant problem of today is rigidity in science. We think we know what we know and that it’s the hard truth, whereas new studies might show otherwise. The truth is that there is still more to learn, room for improvement, and technologies that will open the door to previously unknown avenues of healthcare.
One such debate in the dental industry surrounds the idea that orofacial bone growth is impossible after puberty. Old science says no, and dentists and orthodontists are taught that this isn’t possible, but new studies prove otherwise. While controversial, it is essential to remind others to keep an open mind, as innovation is critical now more than ever.
For more information on craniofacial enhancement using a biomimetic device, see here for research from Vivos Therapeutics doctors and specialists.
Another concern in the dental industry is friction between the patient and provider. Physicians must keep in mind that each patient has a different background, education, and level of understanding. They must speak at eye level with clarity, empathy, and compassion. When patient-provider friction occurs, it is most commonly the result of disregard on the physician’s end for the patient’s thoughts and opinions.
Now more than ever, patients demand a collaborative approach to healthcare. In our internet-savvy world, patients have access to many resources, such as medical journals, research studies, patient-driven threads, and more. And the truth of the matter is that patients understand their bodies best. A 2019 study found that 89 percent of patients nationwide Google their symptoms before making an appointment with a healthcare professional. This means that with the free resources available, patients are taking healthcare into their own hands before consulting their doctor. When patients finally visit, they want to be respected, have a doctor willing to hear their concerns and ideas, and ultimately collaborate on a care plan. Doctors must understand this demand and meet it to deliver optimal patient outcomes.
Another current source of friction is a lack of innovative, intuitive digital tools for patients and providers. In the 21st century, the industry norm is to have a HIPAA-compliant app or digital tool for managing appointments, receiving reminders, and communicating with medical providers. This streamlines communication, is efficient, is more cost-effective, and allows equal healthcare access. In short, digital tools benefit the patient AND your team.
Failure to Connect
A dental-specific challenge and our final leading concern in the industry is failing to connect the various medical disciplines. We are making leaps and bounds in technology, creating opportunities to link dental and medicine and provide a more comprehensive healthcare approach. By building a solid network of medical doctors and specialists and collaborating to create better patient outcomes, we can avoid a disconnected, frustrating bunch of independent providers and create a healthier future. A detached model is an inefficient and ineffective one. And it leaves patients and doctors frustrated with one another. With the help of modern technology, this new model makes sense and is easy to implement, cost-effective, and simply better all around.
While overall healthcare needs to be holistic, that doesn’t mean that certain specialties shouldn’t take charge. In the specific case of OSA and other airway-related conditions, dentistry must lead the cause. After all, it is a dental solution that tackles the root cause of the problem. If dentists aren’t careful and proactive in this space, insurance will take the lead, as they are poised to offer increased benefits and coverage to patients seeking treatment.
Current concerns regarding the forward movement in dentistry include a perceived lack of innovation, patient friction, and a failure to establish a comprehensive care team. That said, by considering the above and making positive changes to your dental office and procedures, you can avoid frustration and provide better care to your patients. Dentists must also maximize their opportunity to take the lead in treating airway disorders, drive innovation and education on new science, and create better relationships with their fellow healthcare professionals so that they take a leadership role in how medicine evolves into the future.