If you didn’t happen to see this recent development in dental technology, I wanted to go ahead and share it with all of you. Many people who watched this video are predicting the end for dentists and the ultimate commoditization of this great profession. Check it out:
When I was in Switzerland speaking to an amazing Study Club many years ago, a wonderful dentist by the name of Dr. Carlo Marinello shared an interesting concept with me – that dentists would eventually stop delivering treatment and some kind of machine would take over. In short, dentists would stop doing procedures altogether. He believed a robotic disruption like this would lead to more accurate and efficient dentistry. And in the longer term there would come a day in which digital technology takes over most of the treatment planning and delivery process as well.
I was horrified when he shared this thought with me. But in the same breath, he shared something else just as profound, “The world will always need a skilled dentist to supervise and care for people as a professional. The world will also need great leaders who know how to make a dental practice profitable as technology disrupts it.”
It’s hard not to notice the technological advancements in dentistry. Some of the greatest thought leaders and agents of change, like Dr. Christian Coachman of the DSD movement, are absolutely mind-blowing. Now we have the ability to virtually treatment plan an entire case and predict what the finished result will look like before we even begin. Many of us thought this would never be possible in our lifetime. With this technology, the predictability of great restorative dentistry is skyrocketing. On top of that, it’s also very cool to watch. How could anyone argue?
Dentistry has changed more in the last 5 years than it has in the last 50 years. You are probably wondering if that pace will continue, and ultimately, how it will affect your future as a dentist. If you listen to the wrong people, many will tell you the road ahead doesn’t look good. But I want you to keep in mind…
The End Has Always Been Near for Dentists
If you’ve been in this great profession as long as I have (which is more than 20 years), you have heard top influencers in dentistry consistently predict that the future for dentists is bleak and quite possibly…OVER.
This was before my time, but some of you might also remember the invention of fluoride. Fluoridation started as a research project in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1945. Later, the program expanded to New York state and then spread rapidly through the rest of the 1960’s. In the years that followed, many predicted dentists would soon be rendered useless. The research showed that fluoride significantly reduced cavities thus limiting the occurrence of dental disease. Of course, deductive reasoning would help us understand that the global need for dentists would just slowly evaporate. However, at the same time, sugar consumption in the United States went up by 700%, and so in the end, the dental profession remained entirely relevant.
Even Some of the Leaders of Dentistry Predicted it Was Over
I remember going to seminars more than 20 years ago and some of the greatest minds in dentistry (who are still out speaking today) were predicting that PPOs would completely disappear along with fee-for-service. That never happened. I wonder why?
Dentistry is Number One… Again!
In the middle of all these predictions, the dental profession has consistently risen to the top as one of the best careers in the United States. And I’m not just talking about the best careers in healthcare, but relative to any possible job you could hold the United States. It has been consistently ranked in the top 10 for the past several years and in 2017, the NUMBER ONE job you could have in the United States was General Dentist. Being an Orthodontist ranked #5 and being an Oral Surgeon ranked #9. Think about those statistics, three of the TOP 10 jobs you can hold in United States today are in dentistry. Sounds like a profession that’s thriving to me.
If you examine the data even further you’ll find some amazing and even shocking details. Dentistry has a .1% unemployment rate, which means if you’re a dentist, and you can’t find a job, you have major issues. The need for professionals to examine our teeth, fill and – gulp – refill our cavities isn’t fading. And because more people want cosmetic treatments like teeth whitening to attain that pearly smile, the demand for dentists is growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment growth of 18 percent between 2014 and 2024, with 23,300 new openings. A comfortable salary, low unemployment rate, and appealing work-life balance means dentistry will remain at the top of the best jobs list for years to come.
Dentists are Also Extremely Stable Business Owners
Dentists outside the 5 year window of new ownership have widely established themselves as very stable business operators in the United States. Established dentists have a 0.5% failure rate on their dental lending notes – unheard of in any sector. The latest published numbers also indicate NEW DENTISTS have a lending note failure rate of just 2.1% during their first five years of ownership, whether purchasing an existing practice or starting from scratch. When compared with other business start-ups that experience a failure TEN TIMES greater than dentists, this is even more astounding. On top of all that, dentistry is now ranked the fifth most profitable industry in the United States. As the data is clearly shows, dentistry is a fulfilling, thriving, stable, and profitable business no matter what changes come our way.
This wonderful profession that we all enjoy so much is constantly barraged with a thread that taints its future. That thread is fear. What you have to understand is, FEAR SELLS. Fear motivates people. Fear gets people to take action when they might not want to.
There’s no greater evidence of this than when people hypothesize about the influence of DSOs and mid-level providers in the industry and how they will impact the future of private care dentistry. Private care dentists will always be busy. Even some of the top minds in the DSO world agree there will always be a market for the private care dentist. Dr. Rick Workman, the CEO of Heartland Dental (arguably the top person in the space) said in a recent Dentaltown article, “It is my belief that half of all dentists will be affiliated with a DSO-supported practice – the companies often mislabeled as “corporate” dentistry. If that belief does come true, I do not think the cause will be dental support organizations (DSOs) “taking over” private practices to gain control over the dental industry. My belief is that DSOs simply recognize the current face(s) of dentistry and are responding to the realities of the marketplace. I think DSOs are a valuable model for modern times.”
Think about this. It’s 2017 and Dr. Workman doesn’t expect his prediction to reach its fulfillment until 2037. What should the rest of us do? Quit? Or better yet, do you love being in the 50th percentile? The answer is NO. And if you are reading this my guess is that you’re not subscribing to the bottom or the middle. Your efforts are focused on being in the top 10% of your profession.
Heck, we expect our kids to aim higher than being just average don’t we? Why should we expect any less from ourselves.
Dentistry (or any Quality Business for that Matter) is about People and Experience
The bottom line is dentistry will always be about PEOPLE. It will always be a business that serves people. While no one person can predict exactly how technology will influence the future of dentistry, one thing is for sure, building a business requires that you create value for other humans. Building a thriving dental practice that asks patients to reach into their pockets and invest their discretionary income on dentistry requires an exceptional focus people skills and customer experience.
No matter what technology holds for the future, dentists will be busy and profitable for as long as you can imagine. There will ALWAYS be a need for a great dentist. As a matter of fact, this need will only INCREASE. One of the biggest challenges this world has is the aging population. By the year 2050, for the first time in history, seniors older than 60 will outnumber children younger than 15. My prediction is that they will all have to eat. And when they can’t, they will have to find a dentist. Rest assured, your office will continue to be very busy.
Dentists will continue to thrive and make positive influences on people’s lives no matter what technology introduces to this great profession. Keep in mind that any business, even yours, is about finding and growing great people and giving them an amazing experience before we better serve them with technology.
So the next time you see a huge disruption in dentistry and hear someone say it’s over for dentists just say to yourself – “No, it’s not…GAME ON!”
You’ll be happy you did.
Feeling overwhelmed and not so optimistic about your future as a dentist? That’s a huge problem. Your thinking has to be clear about your business and how it impacts everyone it serves. If you’re struggling with this, we can already imagine things are not well in your practice. You have the opportunity to change this. Feel free to give us a call, we are always here to help. Nothing gives the ACT Dental Team greater satisfaction than seeing an amazing dentist realize their potential, improve their practice and have a better life. Remember you only get one shot at this life. If you do it right…it’s all you need. Click here to schedule a completely confidential consultation.