Digital dentistry has markedly improved dental treatment, as traditional treatments can now be administered both expediently and gently. Digital dentistry can be defined as any dental technology or device that contains digital or computer-controlled aspects. CAD/CAM components have been implemented to diagnose and treat patients, and are assisting dentists in ways they never dreamed possible just a few short years ago. Everything from computer-aided implant dentistry to shade matching to computer controlled administration of nitrous oxide is possible via digital dentistry. Additionally, the efficiency of computers in dentistry extends beyond the chair into practice management as computers have become a vital part of practice and patient management.
We can no longer assume technology is a fad—it has become an integral part of the modern dental practice. Nor is technology a marketing tool used solely for drawing in new patients, as advances in technology have facilitated the way patients are treated. Digital dentistry is essential when it comes to providing patients with top-of-the-line treatment. Furthermore, the industry is rapidly expanding. The global dental equipment market is predicted to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7% between 2014 and 2019, reaching a total of $7,138.9 million in 2019.(1) Additionally, the dental landscape is predicted to change more in the next 20 years than it has in the previous 50.(2) Because of this, it is vital that dentists stay current with technological advances in the dental industry so they don’t fall behind in the industry or become outdated.
Yet the landscape is changing so rapidly that staying abreast of the latest developments may seem like an impossible task for many dentists. It can become an overwhelming, not to mention expensive task to make sure one has the most recent tools on the market. The most cost effective way to keep up with the changes is by investing in technology that will stand the test of time, rather than by constantly purchasing new equipment as a way to “keep up with the Joneses.” Investing in technology that will last lets practices increase the quality of patient treatment and thus increase patient retention rates, increase word-of-mouth, and increase profit on the investment.
While digital dentistry has afforded modern dentists some ease, perhaps the most significant part of digital dentistry is the improvement in the life for patients. Digital dentistry can put patients at ease, making them more likely to come in for routine check-ups and necessary treatments. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, one-third of American adults do not go to the dentist. Of the participants surveyed, 64.7% reported going to the dentist, roughly the same amount as in 2008, when 65.7% of participants reported going to the dentist.(3)
Fear of the dentist is one of the primary reasons patients stay away. According to WebMD, 20% of patients go to the dentist only when they absolutely have to due to fear.(4) A study conducted by Columbia Dental School and the University of Washington found that approximately 30 to 40 million people avoid dental care due to anxiety and fear.(5) Because the dentist's office is a tense environment for many patients, anything a dentist can do to be proactive about putting patients at ease will help dentists achieve higher patient retention rates and thus, a higher revenue.
Modern technology allows dentists to create a more patient-friendly atmosphere by being more efficient, comfortable, and attractive. Creating a comfortable environment for patients can go a long way in helping put them at ease, thus assuaging their fears of the dentist and making them more likely to schedule the appointments vital in maintaining proper oral health.
Because the field is more competitive and new practice models are emerging, the need for increased efficiency is of the utmost concern. Professionals should provide optimum dental care while maintaining their practices' profitability and growth. Through investing in technology that can stand the test of time, even as the industry rapidly expands, dentists can create the proper environment to maximize patient comfort, thus growing their practices. Investing in the right technology is the only way to achieve this.
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(1) “Dental Equipment Market (Dental Radiology, CAD/CAM, Dental Chairs, Dental Lasers) Current Trends, Opportunities - Global Forecast to 2019”; Markets and Markets; August 2014. http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/Market-Reports/dental- equipments-market-784.html
(2) Lavers J. “Market Trends in Dentistry”; Dental Economics; October 1, 2002. http://www.dentaleconomics.com/articles/print/volume-92/issue- 10/features/market-trends-in- dentistry.html
(3) Bushak L. “Oral Health Isn't Much of Americans' Concern, Poll Finds: One-Third Didn't See the Dentist Last Year”; Medical Daily; April 29, 2014. http://www.medicaldaily.com/oral-health-isnt-much-americans-concern-poll-finds-one-third-didnt-see-dentist-last-year-279468
(4) Sine R. “Don't Fear the Dentist”; Web MD. http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/features/dont-fear-the-dentist
(5) Goldberg S. “8 Ways to Take the Fear Away from Denta-Phobic Patients;”Dentistryiq.com. http://www.dentistryiq.com/articles/2012/09/8-ways- to-take- the-fear-away-from- dental-phobic- patients.html