Forecasts are predicting that the world of dentistry will advance more in the next twenty years than it has in the past half of a century. The American Dental Trade Association recently investigated to see what trends are on the rise and to find the ones that will determine if a dental practice will make it or break it in the future.

One of the most extensive and well-researched studies related to the dental world, the results are reliable, but the findings are anything but predictable. To keep up with the changing demands of the dental paradigm, these are the trends that will either let your office swim or sink.

The more teeth there are; the more dental care there is needed.

In the dental implant world, there has always been an equation to determine the relevance of dentistry in any locale. Those factors are the number of dental patients, the number of procedures per patient, and the number of alternative services available. Over the past thirty years, there has been a staggering increase of hard-tissue diseases.

The rate of those who seek dental care has continually risen to as many as 60-70% of the American adult population going to see the dentist on a regular basis. Since people are living longer, those ages 60-79 years are estimated to increase from as few as 36 and a half million to over 68 million by the year 2025; this alone will send the need for dental care soaring.

It isn’t just an aging population that is suffering more frequently from hard-tissue diseases, a growing segment of children are being affected. Children ages 12-17 are experiencing a higher number of dental cavities and missing teeth.

Mostly based on risk factors like socioeconomic status and education, the problem is related to preventative care and maintenance. So, not only will the need for elder care increase over the next twenty years, preventative care should be a focus as well.

Will the supply meet the demand?

For dentists to meet the growing demand, it will be necessary to think not just in terms of increasing the number of workers but also for dental technology to advance in a way that speeds up the process of dental care. Things like administrative and technical resources will aid dentists to be able to see more patients in a shorter amount of time; this would allow more patients will be seen by their dentist annually.

In the year 2000, there were an estimated 115 thousand dental practices that employed as many as 130 thousand full-time dental care professionals. That level has stabilized and held steady. There is no way to determine what the right level is to service the growing demand, but there is evidence that there might need to be more targeted recruitment for a more diverse population, including an emphasis on pushing more women into the field of dentistry.

Not living up to the full potential.

The ADTA report also found that, of the dental practices that are operating to date, nearly 60-70 percent of them are not working at full capacity. Since there is much growth to be desired, big businesses could come in and ultimately change the face of how dental practices operate.

Currently, most dental offices operate with one dental professional heading the practice and clinical and administrative staff taking the supportive role. The expenses of a solo-operation are somewhere from 50-70.

To meet the growing and changing demand of the future of dentistry in the US, the ADTA suggests that there be an entire overhaul of the operations of a dental office. For a dentist to survive and to strive, it is going to be necessary for dentists to redesign their practice and change with the times.

Offering more services, using more technology, allowing other professionals to work with the patients, and using more technology-driven administrative aids are all the key to a successful dental office for the future.

If dental professionals want to maintain the hold that they have on their market, they have to offer more services, quicker, and with more support than the amount with which they are currently operating. To meet the growing demand for patient care, if a dental office wants to survive, they have to find a way to get up to speed in an ever-changing market.

Published by Peter Garlow