On May 11, 2023, the public health emergency declaration concerning the COVID-19 virus ended, signifying progress in our recovery from the pandemic. But for many businesses, including the dental industry, its effects will be felt well into the future.
Since the pandemic began, dental practices have faced numerous challenges, including new safety protocols, PPE equipment costs, economic losses, and lower patient volumes. However, the industry appears to be rebounding with an 11% increase1 in dental services spending in 2021. While this is encouraging news, there are indicators that many practices are still feeling the post-pandemic strain. A 2022 American Dental Association Health Policy Institute report2 cited an estimated 10% reduction in dental practices’ capacities for care nationally due to staffing shortages.
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Many factors have played a role in shaping and changing how dentists deliver care today. Because it necessitated patient convenience, the pandemic has influenced the broader acceptance of teledentistry, emotional dentistry, minimally invasive dentistry, and 3D printing—all of which embrace technology and promote patient self-confidence, holistic care and innovation.
Teledentistry is one of the more significant trends emerging from the pandemic, due in part to the public health emergency declaration expanding the use of telehealth, as well as its ability to keep both patients and dentists safe from disease transmission. It uses technology, such as phone calls, video chats, texts, and secure data transmissions, for virtual dental consultations. Since COVID-19, the application of teledentistry has broadened to include the evaluation, education, and management of surgical and nonsurgical treatments. Teledentistry is especially beneficial to patients who need regular treatment for chronic conditions, as well as geriatric and special needs patients and those living in areas where dental care is less accessible.
The increase of virtual calls and meetings in the business world provided a platform for greater personal awareness of one’s appearance, contributing to the rise of “emotional dentistry.” The practice of understanding the emotional connection between a person and their smile, emotional dentistry aims to help the patient achieve a smile that represents who they are and increase their self-confidence.
Common dental issues addressed include discolored teeth, crooked teeth, overbites and underbites, and excessive gums. Dentists often use advanced dental imaging tools and 3D-rendering software to help simulate outcomes, so patients can see potential results before undergoing treatment.
Minimally invasive dentistry
Droplets and aerosols produced during certain dental procedures expose dentists and dental staff to airborne diseases. Minimally invasive dentistry, an approach focused on preserving as much of the natural tooth structure as possible, is gaining greater acceptance due to its alternative restoration techniques that generate less aerosols.
It takes a holistic approach to health care by opting for the least invasive treatment, with the goals of preserving original tissue and preventing the overtreatment of disease. The techniques offered aim to minimize the utilization of drill, needles, and other dental instruments, creating less anxiety for patients.
3D printing, a method of using images from exact scans of a patient's teeth and jaws to create three-dimensional models, grew in demand post-pandemic because of its convenience, lower cost, and less invasive nature. Offering a more precise fit and fast production time, 3D printing can be used directly on a wide range of materials with little to no post-production. It is commonly used to fabricate retainers, dentures, implants, and crowns.
As dental practices continue to adapt and evolve in the post-pandemic world, it’s clear that COVID-19 has created an undeniable shift in the delivery of care—one where innovation, technology, and convenience take center stage in the future of dentistry.
1. Versaci MB. Dental spending exceeds pre-pandemic levels in 2021. American Dental Association News. December 22, 2022. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2022/december/dental-spending-exceeds-pre-pandemic-levels-in-2021
2. Dental Workforce Shortages: Data to Navigate Today’s Labor Market. American Dental Association Health Policy Institute, American Dental Assistants Association, American Dental Hygienists Association, and IgniteDA. October 2022. https://www.ada.org/-/media/project/ada-organization/ada/ada-org/files/resources/research/hpi/dental_workforce_shortages_labor_market.pdf?rev=e6025d77df184e6c95dc7cefde4adee3&hash=225FCBBCCB67174AAFC760FE2287322D