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Predictions Of Dentistry’s Future

by Linda Miles

While no one has a crystal ball and can predict the long-term effects of the latest COVID-19 Pandemic, those with a nearly six decades of being in the profession can base their opinion and predictions on HISTORY. This will hopefully be comforting for those who may be newer to dentistry and the most fearful. I might add that with all the other disasters such as the AIDS crisis of the early 80’s, I have never seen anything quite as disturbing as what dentistry and other businesses are experiencing now.

My predictions are that 20-30% of dental practices will not only survive in the year 2021 and beyond, but will THRIVE. 20-30% of dental practices will go out of business, and the remaining 40-60% will notice a longer comeback to recovery. ln other smaller slow-downs, a temporary slow-down which took months to recover for the middle 40-60%, COVID-19 will take longer, perhaps a few years to be at pre-COVID-19 days.

Why will the top 20-30% of “go getter” dentists/practices not only survive, but THRIVE? The answer is PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). And just where does one find PMA when the world just came to a standstill? It comes from the optimists of the world. They were born seeing good in every negative situation! Seeing opportunities in spite of fear, while the pessimists talked gloom and doom to every person they came into contact with. In elementary and other lower grade schools, the optimists were the leaders, the head of the class….not because they were always the smartest….but they were the most optimistic.

Those who struggle with the ups and downs in life are the nay-sayers, those who will throw in the towel because recovery for pessimists is too difficult to deal with. They always revert to the victim mentality, as if they were singled out and dealt the wrong deck of cards. “Woe is me”, is their daily mantra. Instead of thinking a year or two ahead and how they are going to benefit from those practices that go bust, the pessimists take the easy way out…and join the practices that will not recover. They blame their plight on everyone and everything around them. Just think how their teams, patients and their community respond to this negativity. Their teams, patients and community all pitch in to help with the dentist’s self-fulfilled prophecy. Sadly, those are the 20-30% who WILL NOT make it through to 2021.

The second quarter of 2020 April/May/June was a total bust for all practices. The third quarter July, August and September will be the initial recovery of getting the past due preventive care patients back and basic restorative treatment plans that were in progress when the “pause of practice” began. Because families who were out of work or lost their jobs are hurting financially, the return of elective and cosmetic procedures plus larger total reconstructive cases will be put on hold until 2021 when the economy improves.

Because 60% of basic restorative dentistry comes from an effective hygiene department, if I were a practicing dentist, I would ramp up my hygiene department by having more hygienists with their own designated dental nurse doing effective ASSISTED HYGIENE. Have you ever thought how non-productive dentists would be when working with one chair and no dental nurse? Even in great economic times, clients who have implemented ASSISTED HYGIENE in America see that department flourish along with the amount of operative dentistry. They are now seeing the segment of their patient base with the most operative needs…the patients who allow a 6-month interval to go to 16 months. Or those patients who only come if something hurts or breaks! The patients who don’t need operative (the clean healthy mouths) always keep their regular preventive appointments.

By now you are wondering how else the top 20-30 percent of dentists will THRIVE in 2021 and beyond? Besides always being “go getters”, great dental employers who lead enthusiastic team members, great clinicians and all around honest-ethical-caring people, they will thrive because they were the ones who did at least a half dozen things right during the pandemic. Some of these include:

1. They worked on a game plan immediately having no idea how long they would be closed.

2. They stayed in touch with their team members through emails, Zoom or a personal call to see how they were doing.

3. They effectively and positively stayed in touch with their patient base through online communication letting patients know “we are here for you, your families and even friends who may not have a personal dentist for all emergency care”.

In the second quarter they will ramp up their preventive care realizing that for the remainder of 2020, basic and incomplete clinical treatment will keep the dentist’s side of the production intact.

And most of all, they remain the optimists they have always been. They will THRIVE in 2021 and beyond on the patients and team members of the practices that closed. These patients and teams must find another “dental home” for their dental needs and their employment. Watch the top 20-30 percent grow from the influx.

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