Predicted Trends in Dentistry for 2022
The COVID-19 pandemic shook the foundation of healthcare. Dentistry is no exception as the last two years have affected the field for both practitioner and patient. To ensure the longevity of your dental practice, here are trends we predict will redefine and rebuild the foundation of the dental industry in 2022.
In 2022, we can expect the introduction of more novel and groundbreaking technology that will immensely benefit both the dentists and the patients in 2022. The demand for and advancement in recent dental technology responds to the need for patient accessibility, innovation in treatments, and the need for digital communication and automation platforms.
- Accessibility Via Teledentistry
An analysis of Google trends published by the Journal of Clinical Medicine found an increase in search inquiry for “teledentistry” during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diedre Keeves, director of Connected Health Application at UCLA Health, thinks this trend will continue in 2022, saying,
"We think that telehealth is here to stay. Our patients are expecting it. Our doctors are very happy with it, and it's a great avenue for care.”
Televisits benefit patients who are reluctant to make in-person visits or people in rural areas with less access to dental services. Plus, there may be a revenue-generating advantage for dentists when scheduled between in-house patient appointments or after regular business hours.
The ADA News surveyed over 500 dentists in summer of 2021 about their technological interests and how they want to implement new dental technology into their practices in 2022.
The results shed a light on 4 technologies that will impact the dental technology market in 2022:
- 36% of surveyed dentists report that CAD/CAM technologies will have a transformative impact on their practice this year.
- 40% reported that digital imaging would revamp their dental practice.
- 50% polled said that 3D printing would improve their practice this year.
- 55% said intraoral scanners would be revolutionary for their practice.
Additionally, 49% of dentists surveyed said they plan to spend more money on dental technology in the next two years. What's their budget? 53% plan to spend up to $5,000 on new software and IT support.
Digital and Automation
Automation will become the norm for many dental practices in 2022 to compensate for labor shortages and increase communication. Digital automation platforms can be used for appointment-setting, customer service, and more management functions.
Investment in digital platform development projects has increased globally. It’s forecasted that investments will reach $7.4 trillion by 2023. Global News Wire predicts the market for healthcare chatbots alone is expected to increase 23% through 2025, making the market worth $703.2 million.
DENTAL PRACTICE CONSOLIDATION
Consolidation in the dental industry has been gaining exponential momentum throughout the pandemic and is expected to greatly impact dentistry in 2022 and beyond.
According to a 2021 poll of dental experts, 7% of solo dentists are contemplating joining a Dental Service Organization (DSO) or merging their practices as a result of the pandemic.
What are some dental industry factors that influenced this consolidation trend?
Operational Burn Out
DSOs may reduce practice management burnout, which has dramatically increased since the start of the pandemic. The desire to assist people is a key incentive for becoming a dentist, not managing administrative work, on top of ever-changing health safety protocols. DSO’s provide management and non-clinical support like human resources, accounting, and negotiations with suppliers.
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, the average cost of dental education has doubled since 2000, leaving the average dental school graduate with $304,824 in student loan debt. With such a debt, young dentists are looking for options on the most efficient way to pay off their loans and still afford the cost of living in 2022. DSOs become an attractive option when they offer more financial security, benefits, and some even help young dentists pay off their loans when they sign a long-term contract.
Opportunity to Expand
With a fluctuating patient base amid the pandemic, joining a DSO gives practices a chance to expand their patient base and services. DSOs also provide access to innovative technology and specialists that could be out of budget for new or early career dentists.
While one might feel some freedom and relief with a DSO, other liberties of running your own practice are diminished. DSOs have a controlling hand within the practice when it comes to regulations, operational decisions, and rates of service. So, practitioners should consider what they want out of their careers in the long run before signing a contract with a DSO.
According to the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute monthly member survey, it was reported that as of August 16, 2021, patient volume was at 89% of pre-COVID-19 levels. However, a survey by the North American Dental Group found that 71% of patients have been hesitant to visit their dentist during the pandemic for a non-time-sensitive dental procedure, and 54% said they would only do so in the case of an emergency.
What does this mean as we go into 2022?
Disparity Through Insurance Coverage
As a result of COVID-19, dental practices experienced a substantial reduction in patient volume and dental care use, especially among publicly insured populations. Patients residing in underserved areas remained lower than the pre-pandemic level.
The cost of dental care continues to rise, which means dental insurance costs may also go up. Widespread economic uncertainty and health systems changes due to COVID-19 thus may have a significant impact on dental care use, especially in vulnerable populations.
Dental patients will look for affordable ways to resume care that was delayed by the pandemic. The World Health Organization reported that oral health services were among the most affected essential health services during the pandemic. The FDI World Dental Federation describes the situation as a “dental disaster,” noting the increased cases of tooth decay and gum disease. This will cause a rising demand for complicated oral treatments to address issues that could have initially been treated with a simple procedure.
Shift in Treatment Needs
With a change in patient concerns, demographics, and treatment needs comes a shift in demand for certain clinical treatments.
According to a Market Research Survey by Fact.MR, the demand for non-surgical periodontal dental services will rise at a CAGR of 9% over the forecast period 2021-2031, accounting for 78% share of the global market share.
Is your dental practice ready for 2022? Think ahead about how you could:
- Update your system with the latest technology.
- Consider how consolidating affects your career goals for your practice.
- Be aware of changing expectations and needs of your patients.
Proactive steps in these directions could pave the way for your practice to stay in business for decades to come.