A Lookback at Dental Industry Trends in 2021, Part 1

To say 2021 was unpredictable would be an understatement, even in the world of dental practice transitions, including the role of technology in dental practices. However, we took a stab at making predictions for what was to come, some of which came true, and some of which didn’t pan out. We take a look back at how the world of dental practice transitions unfolded in the last year.

AI leads the way

Professional Transition Strategies Founder and President Kyle Francis said of all technology, artificial intelligence is “poised to change the dental industry significantly.” Specifically, AI is designed to support dentists, not replace them. Since 2010, the AI 100 2021 cohort has raised more than $11.7 billion in equity funding across more than 370 deals from more than 700 investors. Additionally, companies with more than $1 billion valuations on the list span applications as varied as data annotation, cybersecurity, sales and customer relationship management platforms, and enterprise search.

3D printing follows suit

The dental industry 3D printing market on track to reach $930 million by the end of 2025, according to Medical Technology. As recently as 2020, dental scanners were able to mass customize aligners and night guards, crowns, surgical guides, models and dentures quickly and inexpensively in-house — a benefit to both dentists and patients. “It’s a very strong resin,” said Dr. Rick Ferguson, who was able to print a full set of upper and lower anterior veneers in just one hour and was pleased with the quality. “Frankly, they fit as well as any lab-fabricated veneer we’ve ever used.”

No real change in teledentistry trends

Teledentistry is becoming more widely accepted since the pandemic. There has not been a significant increase; however, one valuable aspect of teledentistry is aftercare. Telehealth claim lines increased 4,132% nationally from June 2019 to June 2020, rising from 0.16% of medical claim lines in June 2019 to 6.85% in June 2020, according to FAIR Health’s Monthly Telehealth Regional Tracker. Although considerable, FAIR Health said that increase was less than the year-to-year increase the previous month, when telehealth claim lines increased 5,680% nationally, from 0.15% in May 2019 to 8.69% in May 2020.

Advantages of laser dentistry

The American Dental Association still has yet to approve laser dentistry as a treatment option for dental conditions. However, lasers continue to embody the term “minimally invasive dentistry.” The Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry (IALD) even held the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony announcing its new clinical training center in California.

Implement cloud-based practice management software

Cloud-based dental practice management software is gaining traction on account of its wide range of benefits, including charting and imaging, tracking insurance claims and automating billing reminders. The cloud eliminates the need for storing patient information on paper and allows clinicians to access data remotely. In 2021, 83 percent of dentists did not use a cloud-based practice management software.

What’s next?

Keep up with Professional Transition Strategies’ weekly blog to stay on top of the latest dental practice transition trends and news.