Loven Ganeswaran discusses the evolution of patient expectations and knowledge.
It is somewhat of an understatement to say that dentistry has changed in recent years. However, there is still much innovation to come, and we are witnessing an exciting phase of accelerated development in the profession. Looking to the future, there are three key areas that all dental professionals should be considering.
Prevention will rule
We have already seen a marked shift towards education, with dental professionals nationwide looking to help patients avoid dental disease altogether. The benefits of achieving this are extensive.
First and foremost, the patient will protect their oral health and keep their natural teeth for longer. Improved general health across the nation will increase the availability of dental appointments and, therefore, access to dental care for those who need it.
There will also be a significant impact on healthcare services in general, reducing the costs currently incurred to treat dental diseases. In 2017-2018, oral disease cost the NHS £3.6bn, with a similar amount estimated to have been spent on private dental care. Prevention of disease and early intervention has been shown to maintain or improve health, increasing economic efficiencies.
The professional team will play an important role in promoting prevention. For example, patients may be regularly screened for an array of potential diseases in order to identify conditions as soon as they present. This will form part of an even more comprehensive risk assessment for every individual who passes through the practice, which will enable clinicians to provide more effective and earlier intervention – reducing the time, invasiveness, complexity and cost of treatment needed in the long run.
A technological world
The ability to deliver such in-depth screening and risk assessment in the future will be dependent on the availability of appropriate technology. There are already innovations on the market designed to facilitate the risk assessment for everything from caries to oral cancer. These will likely be refined over time to better support or even guide the professional diagnosis and treatment planning for the best preventive approach to dentistry.
Of course, technology will play a much wider role in the delivery of dental care in the future. Digital solutions form the foundations of dentistry today, and the potential for this equipment to further streamline, simplify and improve the professional workflow while improving the patient experience and increasing predictability of treatment outcomes, is huge.
From intraoral scanners to CBCT imaging units and treatment simulation software, each piece of equipment is improving key steps in the treatment journey. Not only will these technologies continue to be developed, but there is also the possibility of more advanced software driven by artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality capabilities and new fully automated processes that will really maximise efficiencies.
Changing patient interaction
The continued expansion of technology in all areas of life is also changing the way that patients perceive dentistry and interact with the dental team. For instance, most people expect to be able to book dental appointments online, and it is becoming more common for patients to attend an initial consultation virtually. There is also an appreciation for cutting-edge technology used during treatment, which will no doubt become more pronounced in time.
Patient attitudes have been changing as well and are set to evolve significantly in the coming years. Access to general information has already been revolutionised thanks to the internet and the various online platforms that can be utilised to spread information. This, combined with increasing financial pressures and a growing desire to have more control over healthcare decisions, means that patients are paying more attention than ever to the treatment recommendations suggested by their dental team. They want value for money and really need to understand the benefits of treatment before they commit to it.
For these reasons, patient education is evolving. It is incredibly important to engage patients in their oral health to help them understand their current status and really appreciate the need for and value of indicated treatment. In fact, there is a solution now available that combines all of the above – focus on prevention, technology and patient education – in one.
Chairsyde is a state-of-the-art consultation platform for dentists. It is a pioneering technology that enables patients to visualise their oral health condition and explore treatment options with all the associated benefits and risks. Information is presented in a mixture of patient-friendly animations and annotations, empowering patients to take on an active role in their dental health.
Though initially adopted by private dental practices, Chairsyde was recognised as an Official Partner of the NHS during its 75-year anniversary, demonstrating how effectively it facilitates patient-centred care. Chairsyde offers an exciting stepping stone into the future of dental patient communication.
With these trends featuring strongly across the dental sector in the UK and abroad, it is important that dental teams are prepared. Ultimately, the goal is always to deliver the highest quality care to patients. Creating opportunities to promote prevention and better engage patients in their oral health will be key.
For more information visit www.chairsyde.com
References available on request.