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    14 things dentists should look forward to in 2018

    From advances in materials to new technology, 2018 looks to be a promising year for the dental industry.


    Digital workflow

    “You can expect, in 2018, to see many more advances and products aimed at creating a digital workflow,” Dr. Shuman says. “For the digital-age dentist, it means enhanced speed, integration and accuracy.”

    He anticipates improvements benefiting the entire workflow.

    “Digital workflow has been one of the most important initiatives from the manufacturing community,” Dr. Shuman observes. “As you would expect, we want things better, faster and more accurate, and that’s exactly where the manufacturers are heading when it comes to digital workflow.”

    Related reading: What technology is right for your practice?

    The sleep space

    Dr. Shuman says that the dental sleep space is “coming of age” in 2018. Boosted by the recent ADA policy that calls for every dentist to screen patients for sleep breathing disorders and to treat where appropriate with oral appliances, sleep is the next big thing in dentistry.

    “The fact is, we, as dentists, have a huge opportunity to save lives by screening for sleep apnea and treating needy patients with appliance therapy,” Dr. Shuman says. “Sleep integration is not simple, however. Historically, you have had separate companies that provide education, medical billing, home sleep testing and sleep appliances, but these individual services didn’t necessarily work well together. Dentists have had trouble managing all these different providers.”

    For example, a company like SleepArchiTx offers a one-stop solution for dental practices to implement a sleep screening and treatment program.

    “Now, instead of working with multiple different companies, a company like SleepArchiTx makes it easier to add sleep to your practice,” Dr. Shuman says. “Screening and treating patients with sleep apnea can bring great benefits to your patient base as well as economic growth for the practice.”

    Better restorative materials

    Dr. John Flucke, DDS, Technology Editor for Dental Products Report, expects to see greater evolution on the bioactive materials front.

    “We’re seeing that across the board withseveral different companies, where people are coming out with these products that will, overtime, convert to hydroxyapatite,” Dr. Flucke says. “I’m very enthused about the ability of different materials to do that. Basically, you put it on the tooth and, long term, part of that chemical will actually become a building block chemical that helps strengthen the tooth.”

    The market, he says, looks ready to broaden.

    “I think you’re going to see it pick up more in popularity as people see more products that do this kind of thing,” Dr. Flucke says. “When this came out, it was sort of a trade secret with two or three companies. Now you’re seeing more and more companies that have figured out how to create the stuff.”

    Digital acquisition devices

    “About 10 percent of offices are using some type of digital impressions,” Dr. Flucke says. “That number will continue to rise. We also need to see advancement in scanning for removable prosthetics. The software that does the acquisition will improve as well. I’m also looking for several new devices on the market.”

    More from the author: 4 things you didn't know you could do with a digital scanner

    That growth, he observes, will come from more devices being available.

    “We are seeing more and more scanners come on the market,” Dr. Flucke says. “It used to be, if you wanted a scanner a few years ago, we were just looking at E4D and CEREC. And the market has just blown up. Now you’ve got companies like Kodak, and there’s a lot of them coming from Europe and around the world. Last year, in Chicago, was the first time a lot of these European countries made the trek to America. There are a lot of these that are coming along. They probably won’t all stay for the long term because competition tends to shake things out, but the more market you see for these devices, the more doctors may say, ‘There’s something to this.’”

    Up next: Improvements to IT security...

    Robert Elsenpeter
    Robert Elsenpeter is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Dental Products Report and Digital Esthetics. He is also the author ...


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