What 4 professionals see in dentistry's future

Prolonged staffing issues and accelerated consolidation are among the trends dental professionals are expecting to continue into dentistry's future.

Four dental professionals offered insights on what they believe is in store for dentistry.

Editor's note: Responses were edited lightly for clarity and brevity.

Dominique Fufidio, DDS. Clinical Manager of Insurance at Overjet: I see a need to decrease the appointment time. Dentistry is technical, complex, and to accommodate all the patient volume needed in a time of resurgence post-pandemic while operating with limited staff and functioning in a thin hiring market, we will be forced to see more patients in the office during our normal business hours and still produce dentistry and accommodate patient restorative needs.

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Nora Peace. Shareholder of Pittsburgh Estate Law: The biggest uncertainty for dentistry is the future of the independent practices. Unless the independent practices find a way to work together to protect their independence from a supply and reimbursement side they will likely go the way of independent; physicians, optometrists and pharmacists. Dental practices in markets where the independent dentists can control themselves as fee for service will survive if this doesn't happen. Buying groups alone will not be sufficient as the reimbursement side controls a much higher percentage of the profitability of the dental business model.

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Rajdeep Randhawa, DDS. Innovative Dentistry (Rahway, N.J.): Another factor that is going to influence the future is the COVID-19 burnout rate for dentists, dental hygienists, dental assistants and other important staff members needed to run independent dental offices, DSOs and DSO-supported offices. If there are staffing shortages, everybody is going to suffer, including the DSOs, as they are staff-heavy and tend to provide services to a high volume of patients every day. Independent dentists with good management systems, very high staff loyalty and a low staff turnover are going to thrive and prosper in the future. Independent dentists who run high-stress, high-volume, high-overhead offices with a revolving door for patients and staff are going to feel the heat and stress.

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Elliot Zibel. CEO and Co-founder of Select Dental Management: I think what we're starting to see is consolidation amongst bigger groups and smaller groups. Traditionally, you've seen the DSOs kind of growing and taking share. Mid-Atlantic and Western Dental combined, and now they're 500-plus practices. I think we're going to start to see more of that type of consolidation, because it's harder to move the needle for these bigger groups and to drive growth. There is substantial cost energy that makes it very financially attractive for some of these partnerships to happen.

If that happens, the other trend you're going to see is not just consolidation amongst bigger groups but regional DSOs being acquired by some of these larger groups. I think they're going to be able to pay higher valuation multiples based on synergies.

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