Over the past few years, the dental industry has seen huge technological changes.
2018 will be no exception.
Next year is likely to see an increasing number of dental practices that embrace ever-advancing digital dental technology, which is affecting almost every area within the modern dental clinic. Other trends include the growth of group practices, changes in digital marketing, and an emphasis on providing enhanced patient care.
Improved Treatment Outcomes with Digital Technology
Whether it’s to provide same-day restorations or to plan for orthodontic treatments, more clinics now utilize CAD/CAM technology. There has also been a tremendous increase in the number of clinics now taking digital impressions. Not only does this provide a more comfortable experience for patients, it also allows you to send the impression files directly to your dental lab, reducing turnaround times. Using digital technology can reduce the number of remakes, giving you a far greater opportunity to analyze digital impressions while the patient is still in the chair. CAD/CAM restorations and digital workflows will continue to grow in importance for the foreseeable future.
With continued interest in dental implants, more dental practices have invested in cone-beam technology, a trend that is set to gain momentum, especially as patients become more informed about implant dentistry.
Another new trend is 3-D printing. Just recently the cost of 3-D printers has reduced considerably, and it is more likely that many everyday lab procedures will be digitally printed. This is a huge advantage, as 3-D printing is extremely accurate and efficient. If your practice has invested in the most advanced dental technologies, then make sure patients are aware of these changes, as leveraging these upgrades will help attract and retain patients.
Increasing Numbers of Group Practices
In the past, solo practices were the norm, but now group practices are becoming common. Graduating dentists have higher levels of student debt, which can influence their options for practicing. Additionally, it can be easier for group practices to invest in marketing to attract new patients and in newer technologies and training.
Greater Efficiency with Management Software and Paperless Offices
The latest management software options can streamline patient billing and recalls while offering improved patient communication through the use of emails and eNewsletters. These can help you keep in touch more easily with patients, informing them of special offers, new treatments, or changes to your clinic that could be of interest. Management software can be especially helpful for group practices, ensuring dental supplies are monitored and reordered as required. Where practices have several locations, there is often a specific need for integrated reporting and analytics, and for billing and scheduling across these locations.
With the introduction of more sophisticated dental management software, an increasing number of dental offices are taking the opportunity to go paperless. Dental practices are beginning to store patient charts on their computer systems, often through the use of a private cloud, improving efficiency while ensuring the practice is HIPAA compliant. Dental management software combined with a paperless office makes it easier for dental team members to access patient files from connected tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices, all while accessing this information from different locations. Being paperless can help create a neater-looking office, which is noticed by patients and, of course, is environmentally friendly.
The way practices are marketed is continuing to evolve with digital budgets increasing. Patients expect their dentist to have a mobile-optimized website with the ability to book appointments online. Dentists are also spending more time on mobile devices, tablets, or laptops and a greater number are turning to social media companies to boost their online presence in a way that helps them reach the right audiences. Millennials, in particular, are apparently more likely to look for treatments advertised on daily deal sites, which can be a good way for practices to attract new patients. People researching dentists do read the content on practice websites. Having the right type of content provides greater credibility and allows your dental office to showcase its expertise and technology. People also like to read dental team biographies. These will become more important to make sure potential patients learn vital information about a dentist, including their education and expertise.
More Patients Lack Insurance
An increasing number of patients do not have dental insurance or will require services not covered by their provider. The demand for treatments that are generally not covered under dental insurance, such as cosmetic dentistry and dental implants, is growing. As a result, there is more emphasis on dentists providing a range of payment options for their patients and for ensuring people are aware of these options. For many people, the cost will frequently be the most important factor when deciding whether to visit the dentist.
Enhancing Your Patient’s Experience
Patients have high expectations for the standard of dental care provided by their local dental office, and, thanks to the internet, they are now more informed about their symptoms and possible treatments. In our connected world, most patients will now read reviews before scheduling the crucial first appointment. They are also more likely to be cautious when spending money on dental treatments, which has unfortunately led to fewer dental visits.
To reverse this trend, dental offices provide patients with additional comforts; some have even created a spa-like atmosphere. These practices might also emphasize their experience in treating nervous patients and providing gentle dental care to help encourage people who had previously been too scared to see a dentist. Obviously, this type of environment isn’t suitable for every dental office, but a pleasant waiting area, friendly staff, and TV sets in treatment rooms can help you to gain more positive reviews. Another technique that is expected to gain traction is the use of video content, especially in treatment areas and waiting rooms. This gives patients valuable background information and some insight into possible treatments, even before they see a clinician.
More patients are expected to demand personalized dental care. This means that greater numbers of dentists are choosing to spend more time connecting with their patients, exploring their dental history, and discussing dental goals to help develop fully-customized treatment plans and to help build greater acceptance of these plans.
Dentistry is a challenging industry with a constant struggle to gain and retain patients. Being aware of how the future of dentistry is changing can help you to capitalize on these trends!
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