7 trends challenging the dental industry

Seven industry leaders and dentists recently shared with Becker's what they see as the most challenging and dangerous trends facing dentistry — from staff shortages to the growing role of AI. 

Note: Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What do you see as the most dangerous trend in dentistry?

Olga Dubinsky, DMD. Dentist at Linden (N.J.) Dental Associates: I think the most challenging trend in dentistry is the lack of auxiliary staff. 

Brian Hamilton. Chief Development Officer of Allied OMS (Fort Worth, Texas): There continues to be exciting advances in the use of AI and robotic-assisted dental surgery. These advances provide better patient outcomes, less invasive procedures, faster recovery, and fewer corrective procedures, all of which are also more cost effective. The potential danger in the trend is widespread adoption of the technology by those without adequate training and surgical experience, which could lead to harmful outcomes for patients. 

Paul McTaggart. CEO of Dental Departures (Seattle): A dangerous trend in dentistry today is the high and rising costs of dental care, forcing millions of patients worldwide to forgo treatment, thereby compromising their overall health and creating larger, costlier conditions down the road. Increasing numbers of patients seeking affordable cross-border options creates greater competition for U.S. dental providers.

Steffany Mohan, DDS. Dentist at Plaza Dental Group (Des Moines, Iowa): I believe the most dangerous trend in dentistry is the interference by dental "insurance" companies. Technically, insurance is defined as a method by which you can protect yourself and your loved ones from facing a financial crisis. Dental coverage doesn't fit this definition, and it's been a help for patients to get basic care but a hindrance for them to get optimal care. Our society benefits when people are healthy. It suffers when people suffer. Overall, I believe that dental insurance doesn't help when people are suffering with dental disease. It's not what it's designed to alleviate. 

Christi Olson. COO of OneCare Pediatric Dental (Hialeah, Fla.): The most dangerous trend in dentistry continues to be the competition for control. This is a multifaceted and complex struggle centering around two evils — money and power. The focus should be providing access to dental care, but instead it's focused on everything but — corporate versus private, self-pay versus insurance and government funding, educational, licensing and scope of practice requirements, the list goes on and on. Until we can come together as professionals to progress access to care, the battle for control will continue to diminish the value of dentistry, and dentistry will be absorbed into the medical industrial complex. 

Brian Venuti. Chief Marketing Officer of Premier Care Dental Management (New Hyde Park, N.Y.): I feel the most dangerous trend in dentistry today is when a practice starts to focus more on churning patients through their office versus providing them high-quality care. All DSOs and independent practices need to think about how their business decisions impact the patient experience. The good news is that there are many dentists that truly understand this and do a great job representing the profession.

David Williams. CEO of QualDent (Cinnaminson, N.J.): The most dangerous trend in dentistry is "credentialing." Although I agree that providers need to be credentialed to be accepted into a managed provider network, there needs to be a practical process which insurers use to achieve the quality assurance required. The current credentialing processes deployed require needless administration, which causes a delay in care for dental patients. Simply put, the mouth is the dirtiest part of the body. Delay of care of uncontrolled intraoral pathogens exacerbates a patient's condition. Insured patients are already paying for access to care, but when the payor imposes a 90 to 100 day credentialing process on dentists, the insured's benefit is diminished if they cannot access a provider sooner, and in-network offices are challenged to ensure the treating dentist is also currently credentialed — otherwise the patient has a non-par provider at an in-network location. 

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