gauge just how ready your team and your practice is to take advantage of new opportunities and confront sudden challenges.

"/> gauge just how ready your team and your practice is to take advantage of new opportunities and confront sudden challenges.

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    Looking Ahead: Industry Insiders Forecast Future Trends

    A conversation starter about the trends and topics sure to keep you talking in 2012.

    There is no sure way to predict what to expect in the year to come. launches get delayed. economic issues reshape expectations. Patient behavior can be…unpredictable.

    But while the practical efforts of reading the professional tea leaves may not bear much fruit, the exercise, in principle, is an interesting way to gauge just how ready your team and your practice is to take advantage of new opportunities and confront sudden challenges.

    We had the privilege of speaking with a variety of people eager to share their insight and expectations. In this issue, you’ll find interviews with industry leaders from Patterson Dental and Henry Schein, the view from the practice provided by a Boston pediatric dentist, as well as trend spotting from the speaker’s podium. Online, you’ll find even more voices adding their thoughts to the discussion of what comes next. We hope you’ll add yours to the mix as well!

    Shannon Pace Brinker, CDA, CDD

    A well-respected speaker and author, Shannon Pace Brinker has been a full-time practicing dental assistant for more than 22 years. As the driving force behind Contemporary Product Solutions, she is working to provide dental product reviews that include the entire dental team. Through these roles and her experience as a faculty member at the Dawson Academy and active member of AACD, we asked Shannon to share her thoughts on 2012…

    DPR: Your speaking roles at dental meetings across the country provide the opportunity to connect with a variety of dental professionals. What are some of the big questions you’re hearing again and again?

    SPB: There are several different topics that keep coming up. The biggest is that every month, dental assistants are asking more questions about the fact that some states are starting to allow assistants to place composites. Right now, 16 or 17 states allow it. Before, assistants weren’t as worried about getting certified, but now, with all these extra certifications—amalgam, composites, etc.—it has opened assistants’ eyes. It used to be that all they’d do is pass instruments and now there is the opportunity to go back to school and do extractions or make CAD/CAM restorations. There are so many ways assistants can grow.

    DPR: For dental assistants who want to be ready to take advantage of these new opportunities, how do you propose they work to prepare?

    SPB: It all starts with education. I was teaching a course at the AACD annual meeting on placing composites and there were 50 dental assistants in the class, none of whom were certified yet. They wanted to be ready. And this motivation is not limited to assistants. Team members are paying attention. I’m seeing more and more dental hygienists taking cosmetic courses.

    More practices are hiring cross-trained RDH/CDA employees so they can do whatever is needed in the chair at that time. I’ve seen more hygienists in my courses over the last year than at any time since I started speaking.

    And the good news is, there are so many places to go and get information: Podcasts, webinars, even YouTube has a lot of great resources. If you want to start today, all you have to do is log on. I would, of course, encourage people to still look for hands-on courses that provide hands-on experience, but you can at least start investigating right away.

    DPR: In your other role, working with manufacturers, you have the chance to see products as they develop. What innovations do you see coming?

    SPB: Of course, CAD/CAM is going to continue to be huge. There are more and more practices investing in chairside milling as well as intraoral scanners and it is providing team members with a lot of opportunity.

    We’re also seeing manufacturers getting smart about giving dentists what they need. The focus used to be on cosmetic. Now, they’re getting back to basics and focusing on what the general practice needs to stay relevant—implants for general dentists, root canals for general dentists.

    Manufacturers are seeing that fewer referrals are going to specialists as dentists are trying to keep more in house. So they are adjusting and expanding their product lines to make specialty procedures easier for the GP so they can keep it under one roof.

    We’re seeing more and more GPs placing ortho—not just clear aligners, but brackets. The economy has hurt a lot of practices, but now people are thinking about what they can keep in their practice, what they have to do to survive.

    DPR: What are you most excited for in 2012?

    SPB: I love root canals. I’m excited about new fillers, cements and endo sealing materials. There are a lot of new provisional materials from different manufacturers, as well as new composites that make it easier for the assistant. Then, of course, there is CAD/CAM. In the practice we’re fortunate to have an E4D and a CEREC. The ability to have assistants help with the placement of implants by design attention on the experience patients have in their practice and engage patients on a deeper level have an edge because it’s the patients who are making choices about where they spend their money. Obviously, dentistry is an excellent choice for patients’ long-term care. That said, I think technology helps tell the story in a way that is new and unique. Patients aided by that technology are empowered to make decisions that are in their best interest.

    Tim Sullivan, President, Henry Schein Dental

    DPR: What do your sales representatives see as the biggest top-of-mind issues for dentists in the next year?

    TS: Our team is focused on helping our customers run a better practice so they can focus on providing the best clinical care. Top of mind to one customer may not be top of mind for another. We don’t approach this on a “one size fits all” basis, but rather we focus on the individual needs of each of our customers to understand  their unique needs, hopes and desires. This can range from new technologies available in the market and how to incorporate them into their practice, to how to market their practice, to how to attract new patients…the list is long and we have solutions to cover them all.

    DPR: As a leader in the industry what products are you most excited to offer this year?

    TS: It’s tough to narrow this down as there are many…we just launched our Total Health, Beyond the Mouth initiative as the awareness of the connectivity between our oral health and systemic health is becoming increasingly recognized. This program highlights that our mouth is a window into the health of the rest of our body and will address periodontal disease, oral cancer, sleep disorders, heart disease and diabetes among others. In addition, we continue to be excited and focused on the areas of digital imaging (intraoral, 2D/3D cone beam), NiTi rotary files, whitening, fluoride and desensitizing.

    DPR: Do you expect any surprises/breakthrough developments for the dental industry this next year…or expect any changes in the way many dental practices treat their patients in the future?

    TS: Again, the connectivity between oral health and systemic health  will become increasingly recognized in the industry and among patients. The DTA is launching a new $100 million ad campaign in 2012 with the tagline “Oral Healthcare Can’t Wait,” which will highlight the various areas of concern as outlined above. Another area, clearly, is the impact that the digital space will have on practices and the increased level of service that will provide to patients.

    DPR: Are there any trends in the near future that you anticipate will change the way dental manufacturers develop products, or the way dentists choose and implement new products or technologies into their practices?

    TS: The consolidation and globalization of manufacturers will have significant impact and drive efficiencies for dealers and ultimately, our dental customers. There will continue to be an accelerated use of technology, Internet and cloud-based tools including remote diagnostics and services leading to increased capabilities…Digital workflow (i.e. COMPASS)…Social Media (Demandforce)…all will influence both practice capabilities and marketability.

    Dr. Alisa Feldman, Pediatric Dentist West of Boston

    Dr. Feldman, who has a practice in Shrewsbury, Mass., has been a pediatric dentist for more than 30 years. She has seen great strides in recent years in steps toward educating young parents and their children of the importance of good oral health, but she believes this new year may take things to the next level.

    “The biggest change I have seen is the recognition that there needs to be integration and cooperation between physicians and dentists for better patient management,” she said.

    One of the things dentists find saddest is that in spite of fluoride there is a totally preventable disease, caries, that still exists and it exists in epidemic proportions in young children, she said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that early childhood caries is the most prevalent infectious disease in American children. Forty percent of American children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten.

    Children are born without the bacterial agents that cause decay and periodontal disease, she said. Children are colonized with disease carrying bacteria from the mouths of their caretakers. Therefore obstetricians and all those involved in the health care of pregnant women are on the front lines to prevent this vertical transmission of disease causing bacteria. Physicians should counsel pregnant women to attend to their own dental health to avoid transmitting the bacteria in dental disease.

    Once the baby is born we need the cooperation of pediatricians and all those involved in infant health care to educate parents on the need to maintain their infant’s oral health, she said. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommend that by age 1 infants should make their first dental visit and establish a relationship with a dental practice that will become their dental home.

    “In my practice, I examine young infants and get a medical and dental history of both the infants and parents to establish their risk for dental disease,” she said. “We educate parents on the factors that cause decay. We discuss feeding habits, feeding intervals, breast and bottle feeding, use of pacifiers and the means of cleaning the emerging teeth as well as counseling the intimate caretakers on maintaining their own dental health.”

    Both physicians and dentist are aware that people with high bacterial counts and periodontal disease show an exacerbation of many systemic diseases, she said. Active periodontal disease has been shown to worsen diabetic, kidney and heart conditions as well as increase the risk of pre-term deliveries.

    “Dentists traditionally have kept detailed medical histories because it influences the treatment of our ing surgical guides is really exciting. It makes me look like a rock star in my practice.

    This is such a great time for dental assistants. These new things can be scary, but they also can help you excel. We’ve always been a valuable part of the team, but now things are better as we have these new certification opportunities and, more importantly, the ability to be recognized.

    Paul Guggenheim, President, Patterson Dental

    DPR: What do your sales representatives see as the biggest top-of-mind issues for dentists in the next year?

    PG: At the top of the list is practice revenue—the ability to help the dentist grow practice revenue, fill their schedules, attract more patients and increase the types of procedures that are more high-end and exciting. Another area of emphasis for us will be working with dentists to help them make wise decisions regarding investments—specifically, integrating technology in the practice and clearing up any confusion about the right technologies to invest in as they migrate along the digital platform. It’s also imperative that we continue motivating and engaging the dental team to ensure the practice is evolving, even during these challenging times.

    DPR:: As a leader in the industry, what products are you most excited to offer this year?

    PG: Certainly, investments in the practice facility to improve the patient experience and team lifestyle are important to be thinking about right now, along with technology products like CEREC that bring an entirely new same-day dentistry component to the practice—as well as new advancements in digital radiography.

    DPR: What products/technology do you expect to have the biggest impact on dental practices and patient experiences in 2012?

    PG: CEREC, digital radiography and cone beam are technology products having significant influence in terms of enhancing patient care and evolving the way treatment is presented to patients. I believe they are the three most advanced technologies in dentistry today and provide the greatest impact on the patient experience going forward.

    DPR: Do you anticipate any trends or changes in the way most dental practices treat their patients in the future?

    PG: I think dental practices that spend more time and attention on the experience patients have in their practice and engage patients on a deeper level have an edge because it’s the patients who are making choices about where they spend their money. Obviously, dentistry is an excellent choice for patients’ long-term care. That said, I think technology helps tell the story in a way that is new and unique. Patients aided by that technology are empowered to make decisions that are in their best interest.