Three Dental Technology Predictions for 2017 That Would Be Most Welcome

As the year comes to a close, Carestream Dental reached out to industry leaders asking for their predictions for oral health care in 2017. The chief editor of Dental Economics, Chris Salierno, D.D.S, had this to say:

By Chris Salierno, D.D.S, Chief Editor, Dental Economics

The way we practiced dentistry in 1955 was not all that different from 1965.  Ditto for 1965 to 1975, and so on until we reached the new millennium.  Sure, there were major innovations in technology and materials along the way, but they didn’t occur at the accelerated pace that they do today.  Now, compare how dentistry was practiced in 2005 to 2015, the same ten year span, and you’ll be able to identify significantly more advancements in the way we provide care.  This exponential growth in technology is not just unique to our profession and is observable in everything from cell phones to how we order a taxi cab.

It is exciting and perhaps a bit overwhelming to observe the rapid advancement of our diagnostic and treatment capabilities.  We can see major leaps not only in a decade but in a single year.  With that in mind, here are my predictions for what we’ll see in 2017.

  1. Digital impressions on the rise
    The efficiency and accuracy of intraoral scanning is improving while the costs are quite reasonable.  I think what really helped the dental marketplace was allowing us to purchase just the scanner and not the CAD/CAM technology.  Dentists have been making in-office restorations work well for years but there are plenty of us who would prefer to just take digital impressions and let the labs do the work.  I predict more of us will join the same-day dentistry ranks in the coming years but the digital impression revolution is happening right now.
  2. The buzzword will be “efficiency”
    Cost remains to be a significant barrier to many patients seeking dental care.  PPO reimbursements often do not rise with the cost of doing business.  Combined, these two trends are putting pressure on dentists to provide quality care at relatively stagnant fees.  Dentists must be good stewards of their practice overhead so that they can continue to operate profitably.  One of the strongest strategies is to improve efficiency.  If a composite resin material allows you restore teeth more quickly (without sacrificing quality, of course), then you will be able to provide more services per hour.  Any technology or materials advancements that improve efficiency are a welcome addition to a modern dental practice.
  3. The interconnectivity of the practice
    Your dental technologies should be able to talk to each other.  Let’s say an emergency patient comes in with a fractured old amalgam.  You pull up his existing radiographs, take a new PA, look at an older digital scan, and check your schedule to see if you have time to prepare and impression for a crown.  That whole process should be smooth and fast.  Excessive loading times, extra clicks, pop-up errors… these shouldn’t exist.  As we surround ourselves with wonderful devices, we’ll want them to all play nicely with one another.  Dental manufacturers are recognizing that proprietary connections and clunky software bridges need to go away.

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