The year 2021 proved to be a year marked with lingering uncertainty from the pandemic. Yet growth projections still show that dentistry is on-track to see a surge to $30.5 billion by 2027.
And while a high percentage are ready to put the COVID-19 pandemic to rest, there are still long lasting effects on the dental industry. The ADA (American Dental Association) is keeping it’s finger on the pulse of pandemic impact data.
- Low infection rates follow a two-year trend (thanks to PPE use and robust sterilization protocols beginning in 2019) 1
- Surveyed dentists report optimism: 61.6% report an “open and busy” practice; 37.4% indicate being open but with fewer patient appointments than usual; 1% report that their practice was closed as result of the pandemic. 2
- An anticipated 38% dental revenue decline for 2020 (per the ADA) was countered with an overall decrease of 6%. 3 A projected “rebound” of 8% growth 4 is predicted by the end of 2021 with increased growth anticipated in 2022.
With numbers starting to trend towards full recovery and increased growth anticipated in 2022, here are some industry trends to watch for in 2022.
Upcoming dental industry trends for 2022
Trend Category 1: Patient “touchpoints”
Patient engagement. The patient experience. It can be called different things but the main focus for practices is the need to connect with patients.
While this is not a new concept, we’re in an era where patient retention and expectations require more personalized and thoughtful connections.
Educate patients to build trust
Maintaining a high degree of trust with your patients boosts your ability to acquire and retain patients while low degrees of trust can cause lower patient loyalty.
Trust also impacts dental spending by patients. Patients with a high degree of trust in their dentists are more likely to accept treatment and make payments on time.
Your patient may also have other reasons to feel distrustful including having a general fear of dentistry or anxiety related to COVID-19.
Here are a couple of ways you can continue to build patient trust.
- Use your dental practice blog, social media platforms, and newsletter content to educate and inform your patients about relevant topics.
- Upgrade your website to include a secure, online patient portal for online scheduling, Q&A content, financial and insurance issues, etc.
- Make the most of the time the patients spend in the chair. Ask about updates in their life, compliment them for prioritizing their oral health, and take time to fully answer any questions they might have.
Empower patients through communication
Patients will feel empowered as you engage them around their dental care. Dental marketing will continue to trend toward referral and review opportunities. Boost patient engagement at your practice with these tactics:
- Create referral and review opportunities. Make it a natural part of your team’s post-appointment patient conversations.
- Monitor every review – the good and the bad. Look for ways to improve.
- Respond graciously to all reviews, especially any bad ones. Avoidance sends the wrong message.
As patients expect more convenience and faster service through the “consumerization” of dentistry, dental practices must respond by providing a better experience. Here are some trends that show an increased demand for convenience and faster service.
- Patients are less willing to tolerate inefficiencies, bad experiences
- People are going online to find care,
- Many people are self-diagnosing before they decide to reach out,
- Digital marketing can be a way to add value and improve patient experience. 5
You can boost convenience for your patients by:
- Rethink your office hours to adapt to patient preference
- Create more points of access for dental care through virtual solutions like teledentistry, mobile dental care, voice search, chat portals, etc.
- Add services and specialists that help patients see your practice as a one-stop location for oral health care
Trend Category 2: Patient-centric technology
Dental technology can support many of the above-mentioned patient engagement trends. Technology can also directly affect how patients receive oral care. The following technologies are projected to expand through 2022.
Augmented Reality (AR)
By practical definition, AR (Augmented Reality) provides users an image or video of a real-world scenario and “superimposes” another visual over it. The altered image shows a changed or augmented reality.
Cosmetic dentistry and orthodontics can use AR so patients can preview their results before treatment for smile transformations, adjustments, and enhancements.
AR is enabling dentists to practice “emotional dentistry.”
“New technology is making it possible for dentists to engage in emotional dentistry, where patients whose teeth need to be repaired can, with the help of software, visualize their smiles as they will be after dental treatments are completed.
Emotional dentistry helps to improve the patient experience. Dentists who specialize in cosmetic dentistry, emergency dentistry, and orthodontics are the most likely to benefit from investing in emotional dentistry. When used properly, it can help calm patients’ nerves and make the process of receiving dental care less intimidating than it would be otherwise.” 6
Health and safety were the drivers for virtual dental care during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teledentistry has proved its staying power into 2022 and beyond as it creates a time-saving, convenient option for patients and providers.
Teledentistry expands the patient experience. The ADA recognizes the potential and provides a full, updated policy on the use of teledentistry and live video for diagnostic, consultation, and emergency dentistry protocols. Teledentistry expands the patient experience with virtual consultations/referrals, patient education, and emergency care consults and triage.
As technology evolves, the limitations of virtual visits will likely diminish. New uses will emerge that expand your reach beyond the physical location (e.g., mobile dentistry, etc.). Technology such as secure sharing portals offered in our Denticon Practice Management Solution and Apteryx Imaging XVWeb allow practices to extend their reach even further, allowing clinicians secure access to patient data and collaboration opportunities from anywhere, anytime.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Machine learning and AI can process vast amounts of information to identify patterns and learn. AI will continue to be of significant value to dentistry – especially for patients with at-risk dental issues.
For example, AI technology can help identify caries or tissue and bone conditions. Projections can pinpoint accurate procedural guidelines and streamline the diagnostic decision process.
The use cases go beyond supporting dentists in helping increase diagnostic accuracy. AI technology will soon be able to provide “second opinions” for patients to feel more confident about accepting treatment and to help boost the rate of claim approval through insurance companies.
It’s no wonder why this technology is projected to double its market share every three years. 7 3D printing has many benefits including faster treatment and reduced costs. The applications to dentistry, and healthcare in general, continue to improve and show increased value.
A few benefits of 3D printing are:
- Onsite printing saves time and lab costs
- The timeline for crown production (for example) can be reduced with onsite 3D technology
- Chair time is maximized and patients experience faster procedural turn-arounds
As we enter 2022, here are a couple of additional resources that will help you plan for the new year:
Invest in patient-centric solutions to drive more patient engagement
Manage your practice workflows with cloud-based practice management and imaging software. Experience secure anytime-anywhere access to your patient information.
From contactless options to cloud-based solutions, Planet DDS is a leading technology provider among emerging and sustained dental trends now and in the future.
Planet DDS’s Denticon and Apteryx Imaging XVWeb are proven cloud-based dental practice management and imaging solutions in today’s market among solo private practices, private group practices, and emerging, midsize, and large DSOs.
Contact us for more information about how Denticon Practice Management Solution and Apteryx Imaging XVWeb can streamline your workflows, operational tasks, and productivity now, in 2022, and beyond.