| Feb 11, 2021, 12:53pm EST

What the Future of Dentistry Looks Like in a Post-COVID World

The pandemic changed nearly every industry — but how did it affect the dentistry industry, and what positive changes can we look forward to in the coming years?

Going to the dentist for great oral care has always been important for overall health — and the COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t changed that. Like most industries, the virus has changed the rules and reshaped what a visit to a provider may look like. And the good news is, patients are going to see more conveniences and higher safety standards than ever before.

Improved Layout and Sanitation Practices

Even prior to COVID-19, dentists were concerned with keeping their space tidy and sanitary, consistently going above and beyond recommended CDC protocols. But amid the pandemic, they’re beginning to take even more safety precautions you might not expect.

For instance, they might opt to limit or entirely ditch fabric chairs that are notoriously hard to clean. And seats will be spaced out according to social distancing guidelines. Providers will need to focus on wiping down and disinfecting surfaces, paying special attention to the areas where guests are more likely to be (such as the dental chair or bathroom). Decluttering the overall layout and reception area is a great move. Mary Poppins would be proud.

Many dentists make their offices inviting by offering refreshments like coffee, water, or snacks. While these might not fully disappear, there will likely be some changes — prepackaged or individualized options are more likely. And small appliances (like coffee machines) that feature shared handles may be modified.

If you’re planning an appointment soon, be prepared — even the providers may look different. The changes won’t be so dramatic that they resemble something out of a sci-fi movie, but dentists and their teams may be wearing different protective clothing than before.

Contactless Transactions

From grocery shopping to pet grooming, COVID-19 has pushed professionals to think outside of the box in how they complete transactions. There’s a serious, cross-industry call to eliminate hurdles and to make everything easier. Dental offices are offering prepayment for appointments, or texting clients with easy-to-use, secure click-and-pay links. Of course, this requires a boost in the number of secure online payment systems. Patient forms are also being sent by email and text to minimize or eliminate the use of pen and paper.

And instead of following up with the receptionist after treatment, patients could be allowed to schedule their follow up appointments chairside or immediately upon check-in. With these strategies in place, patients get in and out of the office much more efficiently, thus reducing in-office wait times.

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Teledentistry

By some estimates, the pandemic has accelerated how fast businesses are implementing digital transformation plans — not by months, but years. Zoom has become a household name (to the point of being used as a verb), and people are realizing that they can do more over a virtual connection than they initially thought they could. I’ve been to a couple of virtual birthday parties myself, by now.

That being said, dentists have decided to be more open to options like teledentistry, with initial meet-and-greets occurring online. Whether taking a quick look at the patient’s teeth, gathering more information about symptoms, or discussing specific services (e.g., veneers), there’s a lot that can be done over a video call.

In-office visits will remain focused on the more in-depth services for now. As technology continues to progress, teledentistry could eventually expand so dentists can use tools remotely — but that’s speculation at this point.

Aside from teledentistry, providers will take advantage of other existing tech options, too. For instance, they might send a quick screening questionnaire to complete via text.

The shift to more teledentistry and everyday tech implementation will be enormously helpful to patients since they won’t have to deal with so much of the red tape that comes with scheduling an in-person visit. And dentists might be able to interact with different clients than they otherwise would have because of these remote access options. Both sides end up saving time, money, and other resources.

Post-COVID Dental Care Won’t Disappoint

Dentists have never skimped on standards. They’re known to be mindful about making the patient safe and comfortable. COVID-19 has simply reminded them how important it is for them to continue that. It’s pushing them to adopt a new, even higher bar of service and to rethink what and how they can deliver. I’d recommend providers get out ahead of the competition and embrace the new protocols and technology right away. Patients will enjoy the cleaner, more convenient offices and service options.

Dr. Steven Ghim is a cosmetic dentist who also provides general and comprehensive dental care. view profile

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