Like every other area of the medical field, dentistry is not something that stands still. Innovation and improved technology continue to influence how dental professionals go about taking care of their patients. In the coming year, there are signs that technology will help to drive change in both the treatment process and in providing support to patients. Here are four example of trends that are likely to gain more ground as 2020 gets underway.
Expanded Office Hours
In today’s world, work schedules are more varied than at any time in the last century. Not all of those jobs are structured so that it’s easy to get away for a checkup or to have the teeth cleaned. Compound that with the fact that fewer employers offer no personal days and it’s not hard to understand why dental appointments during traditional business hours are not possible for some people.
There’s an emerging trend of dental clinics offering services during weekday evenings and even on Saturdays. In some metropolitan areas, some dentists are beginning to offer at least a few hours on Sundays. With work conditions and schedules continuing to change for so many people, expect to see more clinics offering expanded hours.
An Increase in 3D Printing
3D printing is already affecting quite a few industries. In terms of dental supplies, the technology is often used to create instruments, appliances, guides for use in dental surgery, and several other solutions that make it faster, more cost-effective, and less time consuming to fill orders from clinics.
What many people don’t realize is that this approach is being used to create fillings, implant caps, and even dental bridges. With the aid of CAD software, it’s possible to get exact measurements and ensure that the dimensions and fit of crowns, caps, and even partial or complete dentures is perfect. As more dentists come to understand how 3D printing can help their clinics save time and money, expect the use of this method to become more commonplace.
Social Media and Online Resources Creating Greater Patient Engagement
No one would dispute that social media is here to stay. Many businesses have learned what the judicious use of social media sites can do in terms of engaging their clients and attracting new ones. In the last year or so, dental professionals have begun to discover social media also works for them.
How does social media aid in generating more engagement? The messaging features associated with the major platforms make it easy to stay in contact with patients. They can send questions when one comes to mind, while the clinic staff can send reminders about upcoming appointments, scheduling annual exams, or even make secure payments using an online interface.
There’s also the matter of promoting content that provides patients with information they can use. Clinic personnel charged with overseeing social media pages can write short posts, link to the latest entries on the clinic’s blog, or even link back to pages on the main website. Using this approach, it’s easy enough for followers to indicate they read the material and found it useful.
Expect to see more clinics taking to the most popular social media sites and creating accounts. While some may assign the task of overseeing the pages to administrative assistants, others may choose to hire social media professionals to help them get the most visibility for their pages. Given how so much communication is done online these days, some patients may feel more connected to their dentists than they did in the past.
An Increase in the Use of Digitized X-Rays
While they’ve been around for awhile, 2019 saw a definite upswing in how many practices relied on digitized X-rays. That trend is likely to continue in the coming year. The reasons for the growing popularity involve both accuracy and saving time. It doesn’t hurt that the expense associated with using digital radiology has dropped recently.
Simply put the digitized images can be stored with ease and retrieved faster than using older methods. In some cases, the digital images are clearer, something that makes it easier for dental professionals to spot minor details that would otherwise be overlooked. To make things even better, the radiation levels that patients are exposed to is considerably lower. In the coming year, those levels could possibly drop even more.
The digitized X-rays are also being used to conduct remote consultations between patients and dentists. In the past, it was necessary to go to the clinic in order to go over the findings on X-rays, assuming no such consultation took place at the time the X-rays were taken. These days, it’s easy enough to send the images to the patient electronically, set up an audio conference, go over the findings, and determine what to do next. Consider this as one example of how the entire phenomenon of telemedicine is impacting the dental profession.
Along with these four trends, there’s also the possibility for technology that’s currently in the development stage to come to the fore and bring about more changes than anyone expects. If so, that bodes well for people of all ages who seek dental care. Make the most of these and whatever innovations that may appear in the next 12 months; decide that you will see your dentist for a full exam, one or two teeth cleanings, and whatever else is needed to protect your teeth and gums.