How the dental industry has evolved over the past year, per 18 leaders

Staffing shortages, the rise of artificial intelligence and a return to normalcy after the COVID-19 pandemic are just three ways that dentistry has changed over the past year. 

These eighteen industry leaders give their take on what they see as the biggest shifts and changes in the dental industry over the last 12 months. The executives featured in this article are all speaking at Becker's The Future of Dentistry Roundtable, which will take place Oct. 26-27 at the Swissotel in Chicago.

To learn more about this event, click here.

If you would like to join as a speaker, contact Randi Haseman at

As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who will speak at our roundtable. The following are answers from our speakers at the event.

Peter Alemis. Chief Development Officer of Family Dental Care (Chicago): In the last 12 months, the pandemic has fully gone away. With the lifting of restrictions, there has never been a better time to be in dentistry. We have an opportunity to grow this industry larger than we ever have. Additionally, there has been a plethora of high-quality dental technology and dental technologies startups that have risen like never before. 

Mark Cannon, DDS. President of Associated Dental Specialists (Long Grove, Ill.): Three little letters — DSO. And now we have a looming recession, inflation in wages and supplies, but a limit to how much we can raise our fees. Knowing how to cut costs without hurting patient care is the key, plus keeping the whole team happy, now that is talent. That is where experience is essential, and knowing how not to remove muscle while cutting fat.

Creed Cardon, DDS. Co-founder of Lumio Dental (Jenks, Okla.): Technology advancements have had a massive impact over the past 12 months. Technology that revolves around patient/consumer specific needs is being developed and adopted at faster rates than ever seen before. AI diagnostic tools, digital scanning, patient scheduling and patient financing are a few examples. Also, the increased attention linking oral health with overall health has boosted awareness and strengthens the integration of dental and medical care. 

Matt Carlston, DMD. Dentist of Comfort Dental (Lakewood, Colo.): The biggest shift/change for the dental industry over the past 12 months has been the position that employees now have in the dental office. Employees are valuable members of the dental office and they know it now more than ever. Employees are requesting more money and more additional benefits. This has forced many dentists to work with less office staff or see fewer patients than they are accustomed to. Consumers bear much of the financial burden as these costs have resulted in higher prices for procedures received. Economic intelligence is more important than ever.  Group practices, extended clinical hours, good patient care/volume and buying in bulk are ways that providers can mitigate elevated payroll expenditures. A great rule of thumb is that your payroll expenses should be no more than 20 percent of your monthly revenue. If it is, you might need to rethink your business plan.

Rashed Din. CEO of Maya Dental (Chicago): The biggest shift over the past 12 months has been the increased emphasis of organic growth and the focus on year-over-year same-store sales growth. With increased capital structure costs amid somewhat inelastic sell-side demands, getting deals done has been tougher. This has resulted in the need for organic growth to drive value creation opportunities. 

Bradley Dykstra, DDS. Founder, CEO and Clinical Director of MI Smiles Dental Group (Hudsonville, Mich.): The biggest change for me is how artificial intelligence has entered dentistry in a big way – from helping read radiographs to automating insurance verification and responding to phone calls, to name just a few.

Michelle Field. Direction of Operations of Brush365 (Hurst, Texas): Many people have realigned their short- and long-term goals following the pandemic, igniting a shift in focus for the most successful practices, from talent acquisition to retention. The way our society as a whole now perceives satisfaction (whether personally or professionally) has created a need for employers to take a more active and innovative approach to employee experience and engagement. Frequent and unstructured check-ins, open-ended conversations regarding the trajectory of the company from the team member's point of view, and an increased opportunity for growth will remain key retention factors. While this shift is not unique to our industry, it cannot be overlooked. 

Haim Haviv. Founder and CEO of Hudson Dental (New York City): We've been seeing an increasing need to get creative with hiring and dealmaking given wage inflation, staff shortages and a dramatic rise in the cost of capital. From the DSO standpoint, sophisticated operators with true platforms and a commitment to operational excellence would be the ones to flourish in this environment. Money is expected to stay expensive into 2024 so it's all about maximizing value and doing more with less.   

Richard Huot, DDS. CEO of Beachside Dental Consultants (Vero Beach, Fla.): If you can use the word "normal," the dental industry in the post-COVID world is starting to see their patient flow return to levels that existed before the pandemic.

What has changed is a dental workforce that has shrunk in size, with fully 9 percent of all dental hygienists deciding to leave the profession, retire or look for work in another field. 

Coupled with increased wages and competitive pressure from other professions, dental assistants have also left the workforce, and many dental offices are at least one person short, whether it be chairside or at the front desk, handling administrative and managerial duties.

In past periods where there was workforce pressure, the dental industry responded by increasing wages and increasing productivity to pay for those new pay benefits. Offices are now looking at non-pay benefits such as health insurance, professional dues reimbursement, and other benefits that are not taxable and can be a real benefit to the dental employee.

With inflation eating into the overhead percentage, and insurance companies holding the line on allowing fee increases, dentists have had to scrutinize their provider networks more thoroughly, and drop plans that simply can't keep up with dental fee increases.

Dental schools will continue to provide a steady stream of dental graduates, and the states with thriving economies and increasing population will attract graduates to those state economies.

Noel Liu, DDS. Co-founder and CEO of Secure Dental (Peoria, Ill.): The biggest shift and change in the dental industry over the past 12 months has been in two main areas. First, the shift in digital workflow with incorporation of AI and a huge uplift in ortho aligners to digital impressions and design to 3D printing, enhancing the implant dentistry workflow with printed surgical guides on a clinical level. Second, staffing with the incorporation of virtual assistants being dental specific and helping with getting all the backend office tasks completed and supercharging the office's front desk and managers on an industry level.

Maureen McCann. Vice President of Strategic Initiatives of U.S. Oral Surgery Management (Irving, Texas): One of the biggest shifts we're seeing in the oral surgery industry is the labor market. Our current labor market continues to be extremely challenging and market indicators suggest that it will continue to be a concern for the foreseeable future. The pandemic has had spillover effects, changing the dynamics of how employees view their prospective workplace environments. Oral surgeons and their practice leadership have to get creative to recruit and retain top talent, both in terms of incentives and in terms of investing resources toward that goal.

Paul McGraw, DDS. Owner of CosMedic Dentistry (Cameron, Mo.): The first is the exit or pending exit of nearly two generations of experienced dental practitioners from the dental market. This has taken tens of thousands of experienced, capable dental practitioners out of the dental market, an enormous loss of skill, talent and experience either occurring immediately or over the next few months or years.

The second change is the corollary to that change, and that is the growth and expansion of the transition to DSO/corporate models of practice. This seems to have happened partly because it's the only way that so many private practitioners can leave the dental marketplace (for a variety of reasons), but more importantly, it signals a change in the perception of the DSO/corporate model, particularly among mature dentists and the dental community, but more broadly, among the public in general.

Abhishek Nagaraj, DDS. Co-CEO and Full Arch Implant Surgeon of Areo Dental Group (Chicago): The biggest shift in dentistry over the last 12 months is the number of financing options available to patients, even those with subprime credit scores, making dentistry affordable and the care possible to get.

Santosh Patel. President and Co-founder of Complete Specialty Solutions (Houston): With the increase in interest rates and higher borrowing costs, dental groups are facing profit margin compression, which limits investment into new practices, technology, marketing and staffing. In order to combat these financial pressures, groups will need to focus on same-store profitability by improving treatment compliance, expanding in-house specialty clinical services and remaining diligent on cost efficiency.  Additionally, patients seeking dental treatments will face higher costs of care; therefore, having financing options to make care affordable will be critical to case acceptance. 

Daniel Romary. Chief Information and Analytics Officer of North American Dental Group (Pittsburgh): There have been three main shifts and changes to the dental industry. First is the digital revolution and digital workflow with 3D printers, AI for radiographs and increased cone beam usage. Second is the patient experience and expectations with online scheduling and using AI for interactions and treatment plan acceptance. Third is the increased demand and compensation for staff.

Vilas Sastry, DMD. CEO of (Las Vegas): Over the next 12 months, there will be an increasing emphasis on the importance of preventive care. Patients are being increasingly enlightened by dentists regarding the utmost significance of maintaining excellent oral hygiene practices and adhering to routine dental examinations. This emphasis on preventive measures is aiding in the reduction of individuals requiring more extensive dental procedures.

In general, the dental field is experiencing a phase of swift transformation. The incorporation of cutting-edge technologies and the growing emphasis on proactive oral health maintenance are enhancing the dental encounter, rendering it more convenient, comfortable, and cost-effective for patients.

Several factors will come together to create a confluence of events that will lead patients to getting better preventive care. 

Teledentistry, a remarkable advancement enabling dentists to deliver remote care to patients, combined with artificial intelligence in dental imaging and biomarker assays being performed remotely will alert patients to their oral condition and encourage them to seek care before their conditions turn into emergent issues.

Jeffrey Tomcsik. CEO of Grand Dental Group (Aurora, Ill.): The biggest shift in the dental industry in the past 12 months is related to the availability, quality and cost of human resources. The average cost of dental employees since COVID-19 has risen about 30 percent industrywide, while the dental fees and reimbursements have not followed suit. In fact, some insurance companies, while showing record profits, are cutting dental reimbursements, compounding the impact on the dental practice. Moreover, the quality of performance and reliability of the "new" employee is generally lower than in previous years. Pay more, get less. This phenomenon will drive dental practices to find ways to mitigate profit losses by automating subpar employees out of the practice. This will in turn change the industry forever. 

Robert Trager, DDS. Dentist at JFK Airport (New York City): Other than a shortage of dental assistants and hygienists and the overdependence of AI, I feel that the biggest change is misinformation given to the dental providers is misleading. What we are finding out is that the dental benefits that our patients have are being leased out without the knowledge of the insured nor the provider being informed. Many inquiries that we make about the patient's dental benefit coverage are being answered by offshore representatives who are nice but have little knowledge as to how to answer an inquiry. Most of them are only interested in keeping us on the phone to give them a positive survey. We resolve this problem by requesting a U.S.-based supervisor to clarify our issue(s). We also note that a number of fees have been lowered and the patient's benefits have been changed without the patients' and providers' knowledge. We look forward to many more states making it legal that these benefit providers have to spend 80 to 85 percent on the patients' benefits instead of administrative fees.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.