Is the future of dentistry bright or dark? 3 dentists weigh in

While technology innovations are having a positive impact on the dental industry, some dentists feel that DSO influence could have the opposite effect in the future.

Three dentists recently spoke with Becker's to answer the question, "Is the future bright or dark for dentistry?"

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

Question: Is the future bright or dark for dentistry? Why?

Ken Hancock, DDS (Olympia, Wash.): I feel the future of dentistry is dark. The new technologies available to clinicians are changing the way we practice and improving patient outcomes. This, however, is being canceled out by the influx of corporate dentistry. The one-on-one provider/patient experience is disappearing in favor of profits and the bottom line. As a solo practitioner, it is difficult to keep pace with the production machines of corporate clinics. Our practice patient base and facility used to be part of a dentist's overall retirement plan. The influence of large group and chain dental clinics have greatly lessened the value of the types of clinics like I have as a single dentist practice.

Usha Hecht, DDS. Hecht Family Dentistry (Carmel, Ind.): I think the future for dentistry is bright. As long as we are putting the patients' best interest at the center, there will be light in the darkness. 

Alan Wasserman, DDS (Boulder, Colo.): Frankly, I think it will be gray. DSOs and private equity firms will gain more influence without improving dental health at all. All that will be improved is their bottom line. Secondly, the rise of the dental therapist will also affect dentistry's future. It is said that they will give access to low income people who can't afford to see a real dentist, but dental therapists will only increase substandard care. DSOs will attempt to hire them so they can increase their output and profits. Allegedly, they will acquire the skills to place fillings and extract teeth in a quarter of the time it takes to train a dentist. Seriously? Years ago it became fashionable to educate a dentist in three years. These dentists would receive a break on their expenses if they practiced in a needy area. We know how that went. They left as soon as they could. There isn't enough respect for what we do unless you have a bad toothache.

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