Each year the dental industry welcomes new innovations and trends, and 2019 is no exception. Some of the most impactful and interesting ones observed this year are based on the unique application of technology for diagnosis, treatment, and customer service. Patients are seeking more holistic approaches to dentistry, including less invasive techniques. They also demand increased transparency regarding the cost of dental care, since healthcare expenses continue an upward trend and patients now assume greater financial responsibility.
The use of laser technology is a major trend, and that is fueled by the fact that lasers offer a variety of cosmetic and medical solutions ranging from tooth whitening to dental surgery. Dentists are using lasers to remove bacteria during root canal procedures and to remove tooth decay and prepare tooth surfaces, for more secure installation of fillings. Dental lasers can reshape gums, eliminate the need for sutures, and facilitate faster post-surgical healing. But they are less invasive and typically cause less pain and discomfort to the patient, compared to conventional tools and methods.
Orthodontists and other dentists are jumping on the 3-D printing bandwagon in 2019, too, in order to reap the multiple benefits of reduced labor, time, and cost. With a 3-D printer it is possible to design and create crowns, veneers, aligners, and other dental products right in the dentist’s office. When a practice has a 3-D printing technologist on staff, dentists no longer have to pay outside professionals and wait for delivery of the finished products. That means that patients experience convenient scheduling with shorter wait times, and dentists enjoy greater scheduling freedom, too. That lets them see more patients per day, and spend more time with each one.
More and more dental practices are utilizing secure, HIPAA-compliant digital patient platforms to improve patient service and dental practice productivity. Patients can use those portals 24/7, to schedule their own appointments, communicate with the dentist and dental staff, and access their medical records and treatment plans. They can also use the portal to manage invoices and pay their bills, or even self-select convenient repayment plans. Similarly, dental practices can use automated insurance eligibility tools to facilitate greater transparency and more reliable collections. Patients in 2019 fully expect dental practices to offer this kind of intuitive and informative digital portal experience. When the online interaction is frictionless, patients anticipate that their experience in the dentist’s chair will also be less stressful and more personalized around their healthcare needs and preferences.
Minimally-invasive dentistry continues to trend with accelerated momentum, and one of the most interesting developments involves luminescent imaging. A European company is developing a unique system called CALCIVIS, which has the potential to detect tooth erosion or de-mineralization before it becomes problematic. The system uses luminescent imaging to scan the tooth surface with special sensors that create a visual map and highlight any incremental loss of tooth enamel. Rather than waiting until a serious crack or cavity develops, this diagnostic tool is designed to provide advance warning. Then the dentist and patient can study the images and develop an appropriate treatment plan to address problems in a more holistic and proactive way.