Inflation, DSO growth, burnout and more: The industry trends 1 dentist owner is following

Supply chain disruptions, inflation and patients neglecting their dental health are three challenges facing one New Jersey dentist. 

Rajdeep Randhawa, DDS, is the owner of Innovative Dentistry in Colts Neck, N.J. He recently spoke with Becker's about what he sees as the top trends and challenges facing the dental industry, his top priorities for the second half of 2022, and what he's learned during his 34-year career.

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

Question: What are the top three trends you're following in dentistry?

Dr. Rajdeep Randhawa: DSO expansion and growth, staff shortages and burnout, possible recession [and] its effects and supply line disruptions.

DSO's are growing and expanding at a faster rate with increased private equity investments.They are in a position to replicate the time-tested model with few changes and by adding a few more services outside the realm of insurance-discounted dentistry to increase their profitability. DSOs run high-stress, high-volume offices, so like any high-stress office, if they do not compensate their human resources properly, and correct the work-life balance they are touting in their recruitment process, they are going to be in trouble. The staff go through a stress and burnout process, and if this continues they are going to end up having staff shortages. In terms of the looming recession and unpredictability, patient behavior is going to change where they are going to limit themselves to low profit insurance-related procedures. 

Supply line disruptions are coming into play when you call major dental suppliers, and they give a response that critical dental supplies are on backorder, not available or available at much higher costs.

Being a fee-for-service dental practice, the patient experience is always enhanced by a five star experience with seeing one patient at a time, listening to their concerns and giving them honest feedback about their dental health, and recommending the best possible solutions outside the realm of outdated insurance-based dentistry.

Q: What challenges are you currently facing at your dental practice?

RR: The cost of doing business is going up, some patients come in only for pain and emergencies, [while] others wait longer on suggested treatments, making their treatment plans more complicated and expensive.

Even patients who are financially secure, when they listen to the news about the economy, they have no problem doing preventive and restorative dentistry, but start thinking before opting for major full-mouth restorative and cosmetic dentistry. There are others who have already decided about what they want to do, and don't care about the economy as their smile is very important for them,and are looking for a dentist they can trust. The patients who are cost sensitive and [whose] behavior is guided by the insurance companies have a problem deciding with some, already having dental health on the low priority list. There are some patients who come only when they have pain or an emergency, and don't follow recommended treatments, leading to premature loss of teeth. Later on, when they have no other options, [these patients] have to go for more complicated and expensive treatment, or live with dental disability for the rest of their life.

Q: What are your top priorities for the second half of 2022?

RR: Maintain the momentum achieved in the first half, and innovate to introduce new techniques, technology and procedures to make the dentist-patient interaction and experience smoother and easier.

Q: What is worrying you about the dental industry?

RR: For most insurance-based offices, the compensation has been stagnant or lowered by the insurance companies if you take into consideration the cost of doing business, the cost of education, the cost of establishing a dental office, cost of human resources and with incoming inflation and supply line disruptions. Many of these offices who are working at low margins will have to resign from insurance networks or be in trouble financially. 

Q: How do you see your practice/the industry evolving in the next three to five years?

RR: The DSO growth is going to get a higher momentum as private equity [companies] invest more into dentistry. Technologies like AI, same-day dentistry, teledentistry and in-office automation for running a dental office are going to evolve and become better.

Q: What is the greatest piece of advice you have been given during your career?

RR: I never got any great piece of advice, but learned from my experience of 34 years that if you are honest with your dental team and patients, treat them nicely and are focused on alleviating their problems and concerns, then you can enjoy doing dentistry, change lives and maintain a low stress or stress-free environment.

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