The most dangerous trend in dental

Trends come and go, but some are more dangerous than others.

Seven voices from the dental industry weighed in to answer the question, "What is the most dangerous trend in the dental industry?"

Editor's note: This piece was edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Tim Giblette. CEO of Emergency Dental Care USA: In my opinion, the most dangerous trend in the dental industry is government regulation that makes it increasingly difficult to find staff. For example, state licensing requirements which require dental assistants to attend an accredited school are causing severe shortages of dental assistants in many states. As the labor market gets tighter and tighter, dental offices need the flexibility to find and train good staff outside of the expensive dental education system. If states want to provide standards that licensees must meet, that is one thing, but to require potential assistants to attend an accredited school creates a serious bottleneck which dental offices can ill afford.

Lee Harris, DDS. Dental Consultant at Harris Dental Solutions (Los Angeles): Labor shortages. Dentists are unable to find quality employees that are willing to work for a fair wage that the dental office can afford in the current economy: inflation, economic uncertainty, inability to raise fees due to the level of PPO insurance in many dental offices!

Rich Gilbert, DMD. Private Practice Dentist (Bonita Springs, Fla.): By far it's the commoditization of dentistry. Dentistry is a healthcare service, not a commodity. The current trend to the contrary is not in the public's best interest, nor the individual provider's.

Bryan Shumaker, DDS. Private Practice Dentist (Colts Neck, N.J.): I believe that the trend of corporate dentistry expansion will affect the quality of care delivered due to increased costs for supplies, infection control and insurance reimbursements continuing to put pressure on solo and small practices. Single practitioners cannot negotiate fee schedules with insurance carriers, and the pressure on margins will continue and will result in standards of care diminishing patient treatments.

Ali Jazayeri, DDS. Dentist at Oceansight Dental & Implants (San Clemente, Calif.): The cost of becoming a successful dentist is becoming too high. Overcoming a half-million-dollar loan to begin your career is a tough obstacle. The sheer bulk of this loan will discourage many dentists from owning their own practice. Purchasing your office property is becoming a distant dream for most dentists. If this housing crisis doesn't slow down, even purchasing a nice home will be a huge obstacle for newly graduating dentists. This will force more and more dentists into working for corporations, which takes the joy and pleasure of dentistry away from new dentists.

Louis Malcmacher, DDS. President of the American Academy of Facial Esthetics (South Euclid, Ohio): The most dangerous trend in dentistry is clinician burnout, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Dentists who do not expand their practices by adding elective esthetic procedures like Botox and dermal fillers, which have exploded even through the pandemic, have been hit with declining patient volume and income as evidenced by the Health Policy Institute of the ADA. Patients are investing in their own facial esthetics with injectable therapy, which is now exploding. While most dentists have had lower patient volume and income during the pandemic, American Academy of Facial Esthetics dentists have grown their practices 30 percent or more. The biggest challenge to dentists is themselves. It is time to expand their practices with elective services that patients are going elsewhere for.

Suzanne Ebert, DDS. Vice President of Dental Practice and Relationships for ADA Practice Transitions (Chicago): Two-plus years of pandemic-related issues such as staffing challenges, increased costs for [personal protective equipment] and new processes all mean that dentists are now unable to see as many patients. In fact, data from the ADA Health Policy Institute show that a third of owners say they now need more staff to see the same number of patients as before COVID due to heightened infection control processes. As a result, many owner dentists who might have otherwise worked a few more years are choosing to retire early, and they're not waiting around to find buyers. The average retirement age is dropping as many shut down their practices. This is exacerbating access to care issues, leading to declining oral health among the general population, especially in areas that were already underserved.

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