Today, Americans feel that they’re busier than ever. Because of the increased time spent by Americans working, they’re looking to maximize virtually every minute of their day and expect more and more on-demand options to daily activities. Everyday examples of this in our daily lives are easy to spot – grocery store and pharmacy delivery services, Amazon Prime and Netflix. Visiting the doctor has been no different. We see primary care physicians utilizing chat bots on websites and text message appointment reminders. These efforts to enhance convenience translates to “saved time.” Dentists are also rapidly evolving to meet the needs of patients in the 21st century, both through the adoption of cutting-edge tools to provide quicker procedures with faster recovery times and at-home treatments that can be purchased online.
While healthcare providers hope that the first stop to inquire about at-home health products and technologies would be a licensed practitioner, the reality is that a large number of millennials rely on their social media feeds for this information and recommendations. A product’s effectiveness is based on comments and reviews from influencers and ads, and dental products are no exception. For example, a trend that took over social media by storm was an at-home remedy for teeth whitening with charcoal, which became an internet sensation. The charcoal trend highlighted the desire of the “Amazon Generation” to take care of their oral health with minimal hits to their bank account, and from the comfort of their own home. However, many of these remedies are not the solution consumers believe them to be, and some can contain unwanted side effects. In addition to the challenge of educating their patients, dentists are faced with competing with these rapid trends consumers can buy over the counter and online. And while it may seem like a never-ending battle, as we approach 2019, dentists can resolve to seek out the latest innovations to align their services and offerings with today’s consumer expectations, or risk falling behind and losing patients.
Today, patients expect for the latest advances and offerings to be implemented in a dental practice, and often plays an important role in how they select their primary dentist. While this may seem like a very tall order to fill, there are in fact new dental technologies, such as dental lasers, and training programs that arm today’s dentist with the equipment and knowledge they need to keep up. Dental lasers, specifically, meet many of these needs head on. For example, dental lasers allow for more procedures to be done in one sitting, which will decrease the amount of dental visits needed, and ultimately, drive down costs for patients. Additionally, treatments with dental lasers are less invasive and gentler, giving patients shorter recovery times, and oftentimes, no time at all away from work. Finally, lasers allow for the same results as traditional practices – or sometimes, better – so patients do not have to worry about if their teeth will look good or not.
Beyond ensuring an office carries the latest and most innovative treatment options, how can dentists compete with the instant online ordering options? By creating a one-stop-shop for their patients. Products such as Invisalign, SmileDirect and GLO are being offered in dental offices more frequently to ensure that patients can have all of their needs met with a single trip to the dentist. Invisalign sales continue to see steady growth throughout recent years, challenging dentists to change their traditional offerings for ones that keep them ahead of the curve. Adopting these consumer products keeps patients happy with the care that they receive and creates an opportunity for dental offices to increase their revenue through selling these products directly to their patients. Additionally, providing these options will give dentists the opportunity to speak with their patients about the product, its use for their specific dental needs, as well as any questions the patient may have.
As the industry changes, dental offices are expected to follow suit, and can do this by offering a wider range of procedures that they have not provided historically, while utilizing new technologies. Although adding these new products to their arsenal can be a costly initial investment, it is one that has promise to pay off in the long run, as the industry continues to move forward.
Taking the initiative to invest in change will likely result in a noticeable shift in patient increase, revenue and education. Overall, new technologies represent an opportunity for dentists rather than a challenge, as implementing them successfully will encourage more patients to select these forward-thinking practices for their primary dental care. In 2019, we will see sweeping changes in dental offices across the country, and while it may be difficult for dentists to accept these changes, ultimately, their patients will benefit. The changes coming to dentistry indicate positive changes, as the industry is correcting itself to meet the needs of its patients, whose welfare is now starting to dictate how dental care is provided.