A Look at Today’s Ever-Evolving Dental Patient Experience

The pandemic’s impact on the dental practice landscape

Since 2020, most of us have had to adjust the way we go about our daily lives, and – thankfully – not all the change has been unfavorable. Among the many challenges the pandemic has created is the impact it’s had on patient care across all fields of healthcare, including dentistry. As we reach the midpoint of 2022 and look ahead to the second half of the year, it’s clear that some of the changes the world has undergone have been beneficial for patients in terms of convenience, customization, and personal preferences related to dental care.

The challenges of the times have inspired innovations or brought about policy and guideline updates that in some cases were long overdue across the dental practice landscape.

In many locations, patients have already experienced changes at their dentist office that include digital consultation rooms, staff using enhanced personal protective equipment, and the use of high-speed air filtration to prevent aerosols. Among these emerging standards, digital consultation rooms will likely remain in place going forward as patients have become accustomed to using them and prefer the convenience for certain applications. In addition to being a space to provide remote treatment and monitoring, digital consultation rooms also facilitate an ongoing dialogue between the dentist and patient. Remote treatment planning may become the norm among dental practices moving forward.

The Future of Waiting Rooms and Remote Triage

Another area of change is the impact on large waiting rooms, which have become virtually obsolete as the need for social distancing as well as patient preference has transformed the process of checking in and waiting for an appointment. As a result, many dentists now offer remote check-in and patients are asked to wait in their car before being called by a staff member to enter the office.  

Teledentistry is also an emerging technology that has changed the patient experience as it is now being increasingly used to gauge the level of urgency related to unexpected oral-related issues. Although it can’t replace the need for in-person dental care, teledentistry is playing an important role in triage as dentists can utilize this remote technology to make decisions about how quickly a patient needs to be treated or what type of treatment will need to be rendered. Using a smartphone equipped with a scanning app that employs Artificial Intelligence (AI), patients can obtain an image that can be used by the dentist to analyze inflammation of tissue, gum recession, and tooth integrity, which enables them to formulate a prognosis and treatment plan without physically seeing the patient.

What to Expect Going Forward

During the first half of 2022, owners of dental practices have redesigned and renovated their spaces to increase the size of examination rooms, reallocate real estate to accommodate more diagnostic equipment, and, if applicable, reduce the amount of area needed for a waiting room. This approach to the layout of dental offices is expected to continue in the years ahead as dental practices continue to evolve with the times.  

Although dentistry and all fields of healthcare have been characterized, historically, by the need for continual change to provide the most innovative and technologically advanced care for patients, the last two years has yielded change and innovation on an unprecedented scale. We are living in a very exciting time in the history of modern dentistry as a myriad of practices, in a relatively short time frame, have met the challenges of coping with a global pandemic by making the dental patient’s journey as healthy and safe as possible.

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