'We need to be vigilant': What dental leaders told us in March

Last month, dental professionals spoke with Becker's about DSO activity, medical-dental integration, value-based dentistry and more.

Here is what 10 dental leaders told Becker's in March: 

How Sage Dental plans to expand its new pediatric brand

Jonathan Kaufman. Chief Marketing Officer at Sage Dental (Boca Raton, Fla.): There are numerous outstanding pediatric providers across Florida and Georgia operating both as part of a DSO and as private practices. However, we believe that what distinguishes the Sage Dental Kids and Orthodontics brand from all others are the same qualities that attract patients to our Sage Dental practices.

By integrating the high-quality care, advanced clinical technologies and comprehensive services that Sage Dental is renowned for, with a dedicated focus on creating a child-friendly environment and experience, we aim to foster long-term relationships with our young patients. Our goal is for them to begin their dental journey with us as children and remain part of the Sage family for life.

How a former dental assistant uses their experience to lead a growing DSO

Christy Englehart. COO of PepperPointe Partnerships (Lexington, Ky.): I was a dental assistant for 10 years before I moved into other different roles. So there's nothing that I haven't done in a dental practice except pick up a scaler as a hygienist or pick up a handpiece as a doctor, but everything else I have done, and I'm super thankful for that opportunity. One thing I've always tried to remember is to never forget where you came from. So when I walk into a practice and maybe the other assistant had a child sick or something that day and you're the only assistant and it's a crazy day, I can empathize with that and always thank them and remember what that was like. So I think always remembering where you came from is really important when you are supporting and connecting with the doctors and the dental teams. I don't think I could have gotten to the level that I am without that experience. It was a humbling experience for me and I'm super grateful for everyone who works in a dental practice. That is truly the heartbeat of the business.

DSOs should prepare for increased patient demand in 2024: Exec

Barry Lyon, DDS. Chief Dental Officer for the Division of Orthodontics and Pediatric Dentistry at Dental Care Alliance (Sarasota, Fla.): Now that inflation has slowed, unemployment has decreased, and with the [Federal Reserve] lowering interest rates, DSOs will need to prepare for increased patient traffic by hiring more employees and expanding doctors’ schedules, and will need to consider enlarging facilities. Fortunately, dentistry has timed advances in technology to an improved economy and increased demand. Artificial intelligence has been refined to the point where it can streamline patient care with reliable diagnostics and sound treatment planning. 3D imaging along with artificial intelligence is a huge benefit to patients with better clinical outcomes.

Why robotics could be the 'next wave' in dentistry

Wardah Inam, PhD. Co-founder and CEO of Overjet: In 12 months from now, we will be covering many more diseases, and the introduction of new products will help in doing so. Five years from now, I believe that AI will become the new standard of care, which I think is already starting to happen in the DSO space.  I think it's going to become more mainstream, not only the DSOs but across the board with solo practices as well. In the last few years, the technology has evolved and has gotten much better in its ability to detect, outline, identify and quantify oral diseases. I also think that dental AI will start to be applied more to improve administrative efficiencies and help the clinicians do their job better by spending more time with the patient and being able to improve patient outcomes.

ClearChoice's CEO on what's next after hitting 100 practices

Rahma Samow. CEO of ClearChoice Dental Implant Centers (Greenwood Village, Colo.): To begin, ClearChoice is the No. 1 fixed full-arch dental implant provider in the U.S. We've treated more than 150,000 patients and placed over 1 million implants since 2005. With 100 centers now in 35 states across the U.S., we are the only national network specializing in dental implants with this kind of reach. However, what truly sets us apart is our approach to patient care. Beginning with our expertise and quality care, the ClearChoice network is made up of highly trained, nationally recognized doctors who have experience treating the most complex cases. Second, we offer a full spectrum of teeth replacement solutions and one-day smile transformations to fit our patients' dental needs, lifestyle and budget. Lastly, we take a personalized and empathetic approach to treating every patient who comes through our doors. From the smile design process to ensuring proper healing, dental fit and function, each patient receives a treatment plan that is customized specifically to their needs. 

'Complete disaster': Dental office grapples with healthcare's most significant cyberattack

Steven Freeman, DDS. Dentist at Elite Smiles (St. Augustine, Fla.): Practice owners need to take this moment to realize that we are not immune from such attacks, even on our own practices. We need to be vigilant in making sure that our cybersecurity is at minimum on par with larger corporations, if not better, because could you imagine your practice being shut down and not being able to see patients because of a cyberattack? It would be a nightmare.

How 1 payer is approaching a 'paradigm shift' in dentistry

Peter Fuentes, DMD. Chief Dental Officer at MetLife: Value-based healthcare is the future of healthcare. In fact, the number of value-based programs in the U.S. is expected to double in the next five years. MetLife took this approach and applied it to the evaluation of dental providers to strengthen our network and enable an increased emphasis on supplying access to designated providers who focus on quality health outcomes. This new program provides a fair and equitable evaluation of qualifying in-network dentists and not only helps employees locate SpotLite dentists, but given its focus on improving oral health outcomes, also helps employers reduce costs and improve holistic wellness across their workforces.

'The nobility of healthcare is being lost': The toughest decisions facing 4 dentists

Bertram Hughes, DMD. Family & Cosmetic Dentistry (Gainesville, Fla.): One of the toughest decisions for dentists today surrounds having to make business decisions about their practice in reaction to policies of insurance companies. When operating in-network, the dental office is oftentimes put in the precarious position of having to choose the viability of the practice versus providing care at the high level they wish to. Accepting plans, especially in today’s environment, comes with a risk of third-party payers using monetary or reimbursement pressure to shape the dental practice. This outside construct can influence the type of patients a practice will attract, as well as the experience the practice will be able to provide. 

How UCSF is improving patient care with medical-dental integration

Brian Bast, DMD, MD. Oral and maxillofacial surgeon at UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco): I would say the most important thing for me was just the impact on providing safe care. The whole reason we're doing all of this is for the patients. So anything we can do to improve the care we offer, that's the most important thing to think about. So when people are saying, "This is really challenging. Why do we need their physicians to be able to see what we're doing in dentistry?," or "Why do I need to see all of their health history?," that's why. It's really to provide optimal safe care in every setting where we're touching patients.

How 'working for the doctors' fuels Aspen Dental's success

Arwinder Judge, DDS. Chief Clinical Officer of Aspen Dental (Chicago): We're actually the largest branded DSO in the world, and for us it's always been about two things. One is a consumer of the services from the dentist, which is the patient, and we want to make sure that we're solving anything and everything that they need. We've always been about breaking down barriers for this patient base that hasn't been to the dentist in a long time, and understanding who that consumer is allows us to open up a practice every three to four days. The second consumer for us is the dentist who is consuming our services, and we want to make sure our value proposition for that dentist is the right thing too. As the owner doctors hire these dentists, they want to make sure that we're competitive on salary compensation, work-life balance and all those types of things that are really important. For me it's always been about helping doctors get to their goals, and I want to see if I can solve anything and everything, from compensation to your professional development, and those are things we really focus on. If we can get those things right, dentists will choose us, and if they choose us we want to get the best and the brightest. That way, we can support the patients in the right way, and that allows us to continue to grow.

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