What Are The Trends In Dentistry In 2018? How Will They Impact You?
This post was originally published August 13, 2015, and updated March 9, 2018.
The healthcare market is continually changing, and dentistry is no exception. For dentists to maximize their patient retention and patient generation, it’s necessary to stay on top of dental industry trends and changes so you can stay one step ahead of the competition.
There are some changes that will affect you no matter what you do — such as nation-wide policies affecting dental insurance. Other changes, like technological trends, will require you to take action in order to keep your dental practice competitive.
Here are the seven major trends influencing today’s dental industry, and what they mean for your ability to attract and keep patients.
1. Catching Up on Dental Care
In a perfect world, everybody would have full dental coverage. They would stay up to date with their preventive dental care and get problems treated immediately.
Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world. The last quarter of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 were marred by Congress’ failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides dental and medical insurance to millions of children.
After months of squabbling, Congress finally voted to extend funding for CHIP for an additional six years, ending in 2024.
What does that mean for dentists in 2018? Well, many dentists and group practices may see an uptick in appointments for kids. Parents who couldn’t afford routine dental care without CHIP will want to make appointments for their kids. That will mean an increase in routine visits, cleanings, and repair work on kids’ teeth.
Catch-up care is also an issue for adults. It’s not uncommon for adults to postpone dental treatments due to an inability to pay or a belief that they don’t need treatment. Parents who could afford to pay for dental care for themselves when they had CHIP for their kids may also be in need of catch-up care in 2018.
You can use this trend by targeting former patients who haven’t been in to see you for a while. Social media, email marketing, and direct mail can all help you get in touch with those patients and encourage them to make an appointment with you.
2. The Rise of 3D Printing
Technology is revolutionizing the world of dentistry, and we expect that trend to continue in 2018. One of the most persistent trends is the rise of 3D resin printing as a way of providing custom dental solutions to patients.
3D printing has been around for years, but only recently has it begun to take hold as a trend worth discussing. That’s because initially, it was mostly seen as a tool for the dental lab, used to create orthodontic devices.
Today, 3D printing can be used for general dentistry, implantology, prosthodontics, and even to create custom devices to help patients with sleep apnea. Resin is popular as a printing material for many reasons. For example:
In some industries, including jewelry-making and hearing aids, the use of 3D printers has already peaked and may be on the decline. However, we think the trend in dentistry will be toward increased use of 3D resin printing in 2018 and beyond.
If you don’t have a 3D printer in your practice, now may be the time to think about investing in one. Their use is likely to increase over the coming year, and buying now can help you stay on top of the trend.
3. New Challenges for Facebook Marketing
You may have read that, at the end of 2017, Facebook made some changes to its algorithms. Mark Zuckerburg announced that Facebook would now be prioritizing newsfeed posts from friends, family members, and groups.
Reading between the lines, the news here for dental practices is that marketing on Facebook just became more challenging than it used to be. Before, you could count on a significant percentage of your Facebook followers seeing the content you post in the newsfeeds. Now, it may not be so simple.
Of course, Facebook framed this change as a way of allowing users to see more of the content posted by people they know. Chances are there’s a bit of brand rehabilitation involved here, too – Facebook took a big hit over their display of political ads funded by foreigners, and that’s still reverberating now, more than a year after the presidential election.
What does this mean for you? The biggest change is that you’ll probably have to spend more money to get the same engagement on the your content. There’s certainly profit potential here for Facebook. They make most of their money from advertising, and by limiting organic reach, they are likely hoping to force businesses to sink more money into page promotions and boosted content.
You can maximize your reach on Facebook by taking some time to analyze the performance of your past posts. Choosing the right content to boost and the right days and times to boost it, can help you make the most of your Facebook marketing budget going forward.
4. Online Review Management
Online reviews have never been more important than they are right now – and we expect that trend to continue into 2018 and beyond.
Let’s start with some statistics. Here’s what you need to know about what your patients think about online reviews:
Some dentists don’t bother monitoring online reviews because they think if a patient has a problem, they’ll hear about it. However, there are some trends you should be aware of – and they may change your mind.
First, 94% of consumers say that a negative online review has convinced them not to visit a business or service provider. There are no statistics available just for dental practices, but it’s a safe bet that having negative online reviews could be driving patients to your competitors.
The same survey found that only one-third of businesses respond to negative reviews. That’s another factor that your patients are likely to notice. 80% of all consumers believe that business owners who take the time to respond to online reviews care more about their clients than those who don’t.
The takeaway here is that reviews matter. More patients are leaving reviews of medical providers than ever before, and you can take advantage of that by monitoring your reviews. A mini-trend within this trend is the rise of reviews on sites that aren’t review-specific. Here again, we’re talking about Google and – to a lesser degree – Facebook.
You can even get ahead of the trend by getting in the habit of asking patients to review your practice when they come in for their appointment. Training your staff to ask can increase your positive reviews and help you improve patient satisfaction.
5. Continuing Growth of Group Practices
Individual practices are on the decline and group dental practices are on the rise (and have been for the last few years). In 2018, we expect to see this trend continue, with more group practices forming in 2018 than any year before. That’s a big trend, and even though we’ve discussed it before, it bears repeating.
One of the biggest drivers of the growth of group practices is the high cost of attending dental school. In 2014, the average dental student graduated with between $150,000 and $200,000 of debt. Fast forward to 2016, and that number skyrocketed to an average of $261,149. That’s a lot of money, and dental graduates feel the pressure of repaying their loans.
That’s where group practices come in. For people just out of dental school, the benefits of joining a group practice are clear. The dentists in the group share expenses. That reduces the amount of overhead for new graduates.
An existing group practice also offers an established patient base and reputation, something that can take years for a new graduate to build. And, group practices provide stability. It’s easier to take time off when you have other dentists who can potentially cover for you.
Another reason for the continuing increase in group dental practices is the changing healthcare landscape. PPOs and other third parties have a lot of influence when it comes to approving providers for insurance coverage, setting insurance payment rates, and so on.
Solo practitioners must navigate those waters alone. A group practice, on the other hand, allows all practitioner/members to share the work and the burdens associated with insurance. Some dentists resist this trend, but it shows no sign of slowing.
6. Increased Use of Digital Resources
The healthcare industry in general, and dentistry in particular, have lagged other industries in their adoption of paperless business solutions and online storage. And there are good reasons for the lag.
The most obvious is patient confidentiality under HIPAA. Data that’s stored on site, and on paper, can easily be protected. You can keep it under lock and key. Of course, there are still risks, but many dentists and patients feel comfortable with paper records that are stored at the physical location of the practice.
However, more dental practices are embracing new technologies when it comes to creating an environmentally friendly, paperless work environment. You may already be using new technologies, like online scheduling and other paperless solutions. What other options are there? Storage is what’s coming next.
The first reason that cloud storage has gained in popularity is cost. In the business world, companies are often asked to minimize their overhead as a way of maximizing profits to shareholders. The same pressures can apply in the dental industry, as partners seek ways to increase their profits.
More cloud storage companies are moving toward HIPAA compliance. They recognize the need for security and understand that dental providers (and their patients) demand solutions that are affordable and safe. We expect this trend to continue throughout 2018 and beyond.
7. More Creative Finance Options
We already talked about the trend toward catch-up care thanks to the 6-month gap in CHIP funding. On a related note, we’re also noticing another financial trend. That is, more dentists and group practices are providing creative financing options to patients as a way of encouraging ongoing care.
As a dental provider, you know that neglecting oral health can have long-term consequences that go far beyond the appearance of a patient’s teeth. A majority of Americans (77%, according to the National Association of Dental Plans) have dental coverage through an employer, a public program, or a plan that they purchased themselves.
Of course, the flip side of that is that 23% of Americans have no dental coverage. The NADP says that people who have dental coverage are more likely to:
People who don’t have dental coverage sometimes resort to drastic measures. Dentists recognize that, so they’re providing patients with financing options that encourage them to visit regularly.
Some of the financing options that we’re talking about include no-interest medical credit cards and in-house payment plans. It’s important to manage any in-house financing you do carefully. Practices who provide it will need to be prepared to talk to patients honestly about their finances and follow up on payments if the patient is late.
"23% of Americans have no dental coverage"
8. Focus on Patient Experience
Dental competition is fierce in some places. You already know that consumers are being picky about which healthcare providers they choose. Some dental practices are becoming hyper-focused on creating a special experience for their patients as a way of differentiating themselves from their competitors.
One small but growing trend is an increase in spa practices. These practices put a high premium on providing a personalized and luxurious experience to their patients. Their services are likely to include more time with the dentist, particularly time discussing dental history and long-term treatment goals.
These practices may also provide patients with video content in waiting areas to educate them about new procedures. Staff members can talk to patients about their experience and make them feel important in a way that traditional dental care has not.
There’s also a trend toward including spa treatments, including upright massage and reflexology, in a practice’s suite of services. Offering fringe benefits like these can help attract affluent patients and not coincidentally, they can drive positive online reviews, too.
Whether you want to get more first-time dental patients in the door, or you struggle to retain patients, it’s important that you are aware of the trends that shape the dental industry. As a marketer for dentists, I see that the practices who are willing to change things up in terms of their marketing and in other areas are the ones who are most successful at attracting and retaining patients.
Do you need help keeping your website and other dental marketing materials current to reflect and capitalize on industry trends? Click the button below for a free, no-pressure consultation to help you figure out how to modernize your dental marketing strategy and start expanding that patient base.