I recently read an old article written in 2016 regarding what Dental Practices of the Future (yes 2020) would look like, and as I just recently had a dental appointment, I couldn’t help reflect on the article and I can tell you - the future is here.
My recent experience at the dentist while harrowing (that common phobia rearing its ugly head) was extremely pleasant. I mean apart from the fact that it’s one of the most anxiety-inducing experiences for many of us - who in their right mind likes someone poking around in their mouth - seriously?
Everyone was happy, the practice had great furniture and artwork, it was all contemporary and colourful. TVs with nature and other serene images on the ceilings, and lovely tranquil music coming from somewhere. No grey walls, beige dental chairs, white coats and stoic masked assistants in sight; everything was modern and pleasing to the eye.
The whole experience was very modern, friendly and well…. streamlined. The article was so accurate that it all seemed like it was a window into the future. And that’s the point really, it’s about customer experience these days, way beyond what we patients see; it’s how the practice is managed behind the scenes, streamlined, technologically advanced, and easy.
So what’s going on behind the scenes? Let me recall some of the aspects of dentistry that were in the article and where we are now.
Technology - the Latest
Rapid transformation of digital and technological applications across dentistry processes have affected increased efficiency, better quality and lower costs to workflows in labs and practices.
Digital Dentistry and 3D Printing - few industries have seen as much advancement in this area as medical, including dentistry. Our uniqueness and individuality as humans require custom solutions so 3D printing is thriving. Digital workflows, mean that the customisation that’s always been required in dentistry, can now be accurately completed in an automated, consistent way with less work and less cost. Everything from orthodontic models, surgical guides, restorations, retainers, dentures, and aligner models to name a few are being produced by 3D printers.
- Superior Visualization - many dental experts will tell you that the 2 most important gadgets in their artillery are loupes and loupe lights; well the most modern loupes also now have their own headlights. Loupes have come a long way. Well they still look ridiculous, but these days they are custom made, with superior resolution, across a wide and deep viewing field, with adjustable magnifying so you don’t have to change them, only adjust the loupe magnification.
- Better Digital Dental Impressions - the intraoral scanner provides digital dental impressions that enable dental practitioners to make better and more accurate treatment plans and decisions. The digital cameras now have the ability to provide realistic colours and shade measurements. Other benefits of these scanners are cavity detection, various scan speeds, and integration with touch screen software.
- Advanced Dental Turbines - the dental drill is the tool that perhaps is the main cause of dentophobia in one in 4 adults. Used in many dental procedures including removing decay, polishing filling and altering prostheses, the high-speed air turbine used for cutting, has been in widespread use for more than 30 years. These days they commonly have a light and water spray cooling system incorporated into the handpiece.
- High Quality Dental Photos - there are more reasons to be able to have the ability to take the best dental photos you can these days, more than record keeping. Before and after photos can be used in marketing, teaching and inter-practice and laboratory communications. Patients are smarter these days also, we all want to know what’s happening to us and why, so being able to demonstrate to your patient’s at the macro level of their dental requirements results in a more comprehensive patient experience.
- Mobile Dental Photography - yes the humble mobile phone can now be upgraded to a mobile dental camera. A kit consists of multiple cameras that can attach to mobile phones to enable any mobile to take well illuminated dental close-ups.
- A Toothbrush With Bluetooth Technology - the takeaway for everyone who wants to take their daily brushing and flossing routine to a higher level. Sensor technology connects to a brushing app and it will tell you if you are brushing too hard, the problem areas in your mouth, missed spots and how to improve your brushing. It may also keep those pesky dental visits to a minimum.
It’s All About Improved Patient Care
Technology is no doubt shaping the future of Australian dental practices. With patient diagnosis, comfort and treatment options are already improving rapidly. While there’s no doubt that the dental practices are undergoing a major technology revolution, with 2020 and beyond seeing even more rapid change; it’s also about better practice management, improved patient care and engagement and keeping the practice competitive.
The standout around adopting these technical and digital changes is without a doubt, improved patient care. With the correct technology, and digital integration of state of the art tools, software and applications in dental practices, improved patient retention will follow.