What's next for medical-dental integration, tech and more in 2024

Dental professionals can expect to see significant changes in several areas of the industry, according to one CEO. 

Cyrus Lee, DMD, is the CEO of Permanente Dental Associates in Portland, Ore. He recently spoke with Becker's about the changes he expects to see in the dental industry next year. 

Editor's note: This response was lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: What changes do you expect to see in the dental industry in 2024?

Dr. Cyrus Lee: In 2024, we can expect a series of significant changes in the dental industry, building upon and accelerating the ongoing dynamics in the field.

Medical-dental integration: In looking forward to 2024, I foresee the ongoing integration of medical and dental care, building on a longstanding recognition within the healthcare profession. This recognition was underscored by the 2000 Surgeon General's "Oral Health in America" report emphasizing the connection between oral health and overall health.

Our practice, in an integrated healthcare system like Kaiser Permanente, has provided us with a unique opportunity to deliver genuine medical-dental integration for decades. Notably, since 2020, we've extended our services to include vaccines in our Oregon dental offices, showcasing the versatility of this integrated approach. However, the ever-evolving dynamics in both the healthcare and dental landscapes (greater consolidation of practices) are now creating fresh avenues for the exchange of critical information.

This development signifies the initial step in reinstating oral health to its rightful position within the broader spectrum of overall health. As we move forward, we anticipate further progress in this integration, ultimately benefiting our patients and promoting a more comprehensive approach to healthcare.

Technology integration: The integration of cutting-edge dental technologies is set to continue its rapid advancement. I anticipate the incorporation of artificial intelligence-driven diagnostics and the increased adoption of digital workflows such as 3D-printing technology. Teledentistry may experience further growth, offering patients increased convenience and accessibility for consultations and follow-up care. These technological innovations will significantly enhance treatment precision and elevate the overall patient experience.

Preventive care emphasis: Dentistry will place a growing emphasis on preventive dental care. Delta Dental of Oregon recently shared data indicating that nearly 60% of adults and 67% of children have developed improved oral care habits due to the pandemic, with intentions to maintain these habits. This shift reflects a heightened awareness of the importance of preventive dental care, recognizing that maintaining oral health is not only vital for the smile but also for overall health.

Workforce: Prioritizing the well-being and professional development of our dental workforce is set to become increasingly important, especially as we witness the generational transition from Baby Boomers to Millennials and Generation Z. Each successive generation brings a more diverse perspective to the field, with their distinct priorities and values gradually shaping the dental landscape. This diversification may manifest in various ways, including changes in practice models, such as an increased number of dentists opting for employed roles within large group practices and a tendency toward working fewer hours. Furthermore, we can anticipate more substantial conversations about topics like health equity and the expansion of value-based care models. These models, which concentrate on achieving desired outcomes while maintaining cost-effectiveness, will promote more comprehensive, patient-centered care.

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