8 Dental Industry Trends in 2021
The dental industry is continuing to grow and evolve.
But as we start 2021, there are specific trends that are making a positive impact in the dental industry.
Before highlighting these trends, let’s recap on how the COVID-19 global pandemic affected the dental industry and what dentists should keep in mind if they’re looking to implement any of these trends.
COVID-19 Impact on the Dental Industry
When the COVID-19 outbreak first occurred in 2020, many dental practices were forced to close. However, many of them were able to quickly reopen with the guidance of the American Dental Association (ADA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These organizations gave dental practices the necessary tools to enhance their infection control protocols, which was a plus as most dental practices already had significant precautions/protocols in place when treating patients, including access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Despite this, the ADA estimates that dental spending in 2020 was down 20% and would decline an additional 20% in 2021.
Even though the dental industry faced a major financial impact and it is predicted that dental spending will decline once again by 20%, there are some positive trends occurring in the dental field.
Let’s take a look at the 8 trends impacting the dental industry.
- 3D Printing – 3D printing has been on the rise in the tech, business, medical and now dental industry. Dentists and prosthodontists are using 3D printers to create custom dentures, crowns etc. in minutes vs. days/weeks. This is a trend that is expected to increase in 2021 as it has the potential to be used for short- and long-term dental solutions.
- Voice Search – Voice will become the new “norm” as its more and more integrated into the things we use most – cars, phones, speakers etc. In fact, ComScore predicted that 50% of all searches were done by voice in 2020 and according to Gartner, 30% of searches will be done without a screen. With this in mind, dentists and dental practices should adapt to this new technology and embrace this digital trend by finding ways to optimize for it. One quick start can be by optimizing your website for voice search.
- Concierge Practice – Concierge practice is an ongoing 2020 trend that is still gauging traction. The philosophy behind this model is that dentists are able to deliver high-quality services to patients in a comfortable and relaxing environment. Dentists will spend more time with the patient and provide personalized care to their specific needs. With the concierge model, patients pay a monthly fee regardless of whether they visit the dentist or not.
- Laser Technology (or Laser Dentistry) – The demand for laser dentistry is on the rise. According to Research And Markets, the dental laser market is expected to grow by $190M during 2020-2024. With laser technology, dentists decrease the need for sutures, can eliminate cavities with little or no pain, can kill bacteria in the cavity and decrease the chances of complications/infection. Additionally, patients will experience little to no pain and a faster healing process, which are two factors driving this growth.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) – AI is on the rise in almost every industry and this year we expect it to rise in the dental field. At the practice or clinic level, AI enables dentists to be relieved of daily tasks such as communicating with patients, sending reminders, booking appointments etc. Additionally, AI can help dentists predict possible lesions and diseases by browsing through large amounts of data and predicting patterns. It can also recommend dental care services to patients based on records and be trained to attend to the needs of dentists through voice commands (i.e., source images of patient X), leaving more time for high-quality patient care. Overtime AI in dentistry is expected to increase efficiency in dental practices and deliver better patient experiences.
- Teledentistry – Teledentistry increased thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dentists turned to this technology to help them interact with patients that couldn’t come see a dentist in person. Due to the rise in teledentistry, the ADA issued a policy to assure practices provide a high level of care to patients, document procedures, and protect patients by using HIPAA compliant video conferencing software. Dental practices have leveraged teledentistry to offer consultations, self-care advice etc. to new and existing patients.
- Healthcare Chatbots – According to Acquire, 1.4B people are using chatbots. In fact, it is predicted that by the end of 2021, 85% of customer interactions will be handled without human agents. The growth in chatbots has been steady across several industries. In the dental industry however, one concern was being able to utilize chatbots while maintaining patient privacy and following HIPAA regulations – this is now possible and by 2025 the healthcare chatbots market is expected to be worth $703M. Dentists are using chatbots for appointment scheduling/cancellations, symptom reporting and early diagnostics, medication assistance and to provide oral health guidance to patients. People are receptive to chatbots, especially if in need of quick service or an emergency.
- Dental Service Organizations (DSOs) – There has been a steady rise in the number of dental practices that have contracted with a DSO. In fact, according to the ADA 7.4% of all practicing dentists are affiliated with a DSO. DSOs provide dental practices with non-clinical business management services such as marketing, HR, recruiting, training, billing, payroll etc. allowing the practice to primarily focus on patient care and the clinical aspect of the business. This is a trend that is emerging every day. If you are a dental practice considering a DSO, make sure you understand the advantages, disadvantages, contract ramifications etc. before partnering with a DSO.
As you can see, there is a positive movement in the dental industry.
If you are a dentist or dental practice looking to implement any of these dental industry trends, make sure that you analyze which would be the most beneficial and cost effective. Even though the COVID-19 vaccines have started to roll out, dentist and dental practices should still be cautious in the type of investments made in 2021.