What 6 dentists want to see done differently in the industry

Higher reimbursements, better training for dental students and increased integration of artificial intelligence are just a few of the changes dentists want to see in the dental industry.

Six dentists recently spoke to Becker's about the changes they want to see in the dental industry in the next five years.

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

Question: What changes would you like to see in the dental industry in the next five years?

Mary Ann Bunczak, DDS. Forest Lake (Minn.) Endodontics: I would like to see better endodontic training of D3 and D4 dental students. I am seeing that recent grads are not learning nearly enough about endodontic diagnosis and treatment planning procedures or clinical hands-on endodontic treatment. 

E. M. Ferneini, DMD, MD. Greater Waterbury Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons (Waterbury and Cheshire, Conn.): From a technology standpoint, I would like to see more integration of artificial intelligence-powered [technology] into our daily practice and more applications of 3D printing in dentistry, especially oral and maxillofacial surgery.

From a medical standpoint, I would like to have more evidence-based data on inflammatory markers, which could be helpful in diagnosing and managing oral and systemic conditions.

From a clinical standpoint, I would like to see more improvement in our regenerative, implant and restorative materials. This will ultimately improve our patient safety.

From a public health standpoint, I would recommend improving our access to care, especially for our elderly population. By expanding teledentistry, access to care would be made easier and more efficient.

Misako Hirota, DMD. Owner of Hirota Dental (National City, Calif.): I would like to see an overhaul of the insurance industry. The rates have not changed in over 20 years for some procedures and they are bundling procedures so as to reduce the reimbursements to providers. I see more and more dentists choosing to become out of network and this ultimately hurts the patient more than the insurance company. We need nationwide MLR laws so there is more transparency into how insurance premium dollars are really spent.  

William Hunt, DDS. Dentist at William Hunt, DDS PA (Forest City, N.C.): Better insurance reimbursement. When I started practice, there was a $50 deductible and an annual maximum of $2,500. Prices have risen not only for treatment but also for premiums, yet copays and annual maximums have fallen significantly. That drastically limits the quality of treatment for some patients. Why not allow the patients to have the treatment they are paying to receive? Don't get me started on the health insurance debacle. We should be able to cooperate with these companies instead of being adversaries. Together, we can make a difference for the patients. 

Charles Schlesinger, DDS. COO of Comfortable Dentistry 4U (Albuquerque, N.M.): I would like to see a system where insurance pays commensurate fees for the work being done, along with higher maximums for the patient to allow comprehensive care. 

Owen Waldman, DMD. Waldman Dental Group (Scottsdale, Ariz.): The biggest changes I'd like to see in the next five years — actually, a lot sooner than that — is the end of non-dentists having any ownership in any dental practices. Trying to make dentistry follow the same big corporate model as medicine will result in worse, less personalized care and having the vast majority of future dentists become nothing but employees, or one of many partners, and losing the autonomy of a small business owner, which most dentists have always been.

The second major change needed is the basic collusion of the insurance industry keeping fees down and literally not raising reimbursements for over a decade in some cases and if they do, it's literally only a few dollars more. Inflation is through the roof and you know the insurance companies keep raising their premiums that the patients pay every year. However, the patient's annual maximum stays the same and so does the doctor's reimbursement, while the CEOs and stockholders make more and more money. [That is] not the way it should be in healthcare. They should mandatorily have to raise reimbursement rates annually, just like they jack up premiums on their customers annually.

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