The top 5 dental industry trends of 2014

December 8, 2014

Last year at this time, we talked about some key trends heading into 2014, and many of those same trends will continue to play a big role in the dental industry in 2015 and beyond. 

Last year at this time, we talked about some key trends heading into 2014, and many of those same trends will continue to play a big role in the dental industry in 2015 and beyond. 

In that December 2013 issue of Dental Products Report, we talked about things like the development in dental materials, the growth in usage of tablets, prevention of dental diseases, the evolution of dental CAD/CAM technologies and new revenue streams.

Those five topics were indeed trending this past year and we expect them to continue trending. Because of this, you can expect plenty more coverage on each of them in the pages of DPR in 2015 as well as here on the website and in our family of e-newsletters.

But now it’s time to take a peek ahead, to look briefly at five industry-shifting trends whose seeds have been planted and that we anticipate will grow into topics that you can not afford to ignore in the new year. So here you’ll read a little about these five new trends: The growth of the group practice, the influence of PPOs, medical-dental collaborations (including EHR), “More technology, more options” including Google Glass, and the more educated patient. 

Growth of the group practice

For some clinicians, the thought of being part of a group practice may not seem ideal ... and it may not be ideal for everyone. But group practices are growing and the days of solo practices being the model for the large majority of dental practices are slipping away. There are a number of reasons why consolidation and acquisition are indeed the future of dentistry and something to keep an eye on as we head into 2015.

, a dentist and a practice management consultant, offers up the following reasons why he believes the shift will continue:

- Dentistry always follows medicine-always. 

- Costs continue to go up.

- Third parties will continue to exert downward pressure. 

- The dental industry is severely fragmented, with 86 percent of the dentists practicing solo.

-  Dentistry as an industry is recession-resistant, growing at an annualized rate of over five percent. Dental school debt can be as high as $250,000 or more. 

“For the last 100 years, [dentistry] has been performed in small solo practices, maybe [with] one partner. That was sufficient in the system or the context that it was in,” Dr. Cooper said recently in an interview with DPR. “But the context has changed, and context is decisive. With the context changed, the system has changed. Solo or small partner practice will no longer have the viability it did in the old context. In the old days, any dentist could just put up a sign and they were in business. Not anymore.” 

Related video: Discussing dental group practices and an upcoming summit on the topic with Dr. Marc Cooper

The influence of PPOs

Fee-for-service (FFS) dentistry and the influence of PPOs will continue to be a hot topic in dentistry. Consultant and dental insurance expert Teresa Duncan had this to say:

“While FFS will always have a place in offices, we cannot deny the trend of PPO coverage and how it is affecting our practices. I’ve spoken to a good number of dentists who are adamant about staying off insurance lists. However, this is not the majority of practicing dentists. Plan recruiters in many areas routinely deny fee schedule negotiations and let providers who threaten to leave a PPO walk. This only happens in a PPO-dominated environment. Patients will vote with their wallets … this is American consumer behavior. What will separate successful offices is the ability to provide quality service and a great patient experience. High-quality dentistry and PPOs are not mutually exclusive. Plenty of practices have found the formula for profitability and participation. Half the battle is accepting that your business model must shift to accommodate industry changes.”

This trend will definitely be worth keeping a close eye on in 2015.  

Related reading: The top 10 most-read articles of 2014

Continue to the next page to view other trends we expect to continue into 2015.

Medical-dental collaborations (including EHR)

Expect to see the dental industry and the medical industry to continue working together and sharing things that will help both sides as well as their patients. In fact, in November, the third annual D. Walter Cohen, DDS, Integration of Dental and Medical Conference took place. This three-day conference addressed the benefits of collaboration between physicians, dentists and other allied health professionals, promoting a holistic, integrated approach to caring for patients. Additionally, things that have long been critical in the medical field like EHR and HIPAA, will continue to have larger impacts in dentistry. In 2014, we provided expanded coverage on these topics and will continue to do so in 2015.

Related reading; Steps on how to choose and implement electronic health record software

“More technology, more options” / Google Glass

No future trend can ignore evolving technology, and we expect to see CAD/CAM technology continue to boom in 2015 and the numbers of dental professionals using tablets will surely grow. But exciting new technologies will give you more options as you look to improve your efficiency and patient care.

The idea of Google Glass helping dentists may just take off and change the way a lot of clinicians practice. When the concept of Google Glass was first announced, it didn’t take long for dental professionals (and our own technology editor, Dr. John Flucke) to wonder how the invention would impact dentistry. A group of dental students from the University of Michigan appears to have taken a big leap toward answering that question.

After watching their YouTube video detailing their usage of Google Glass loupes, DPR’s Group Editorial Director Kevin Henry had the chance to sit down and talk with Kevin Kuo, one of the inventors. Kuo joins fellow Wolverines Mikhail Garibov, Shalini Kamodia and Daniel Hammaker to form Dentyzion, a company that they describe as “a unique dental consulting company.” Kuo told us, “For (Google Glass) to be truly useful in the practice, it has to work with the systems already in place and that is something we are working toward.”

Related reading: How Google Glass will impact dentists and the dental profession [VIDEO]

The more educated patient

Pretty much everyone uses the Internet for a variety of things that just a few years ago seemed unimaginable. Patients search the Internet for information about their health and for clinicians, and even to shop for value when choosing doctors, dentists and treatments. Additionally, ratings sites not only seem to be everywhere, but some of them are very powerful.

So you need to make sure to monitor your social media presence and develop methods to get that good word-of-mouth out on your practice. There are a number of companies and consultants currently available that can help ensure you are getting your message out to the more-educated patient, and to make sure you aren’t hurt badly if a patient were to post a negative review or two.

We will make sure to stay on top of this and these other hot trends as we head off into what should be another great year in the dental industry.

Related reading: The top 5 webinars of 2014