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Disruption panel: Dentists need to adapt to changing profession

September 06, 2019

By Kimber Solana

Group photo of panel speakers
Disrupting dentistry: Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute, makes a point during the Thursday panel discussion. He is joined by panelists Dr. Lou Shuman, center, CEO of Cellerant Consulting Group, and Tom Seery, founder and CEO of RealSelf. Photos by EZ Event Photography
Is disruption the new normal for dentistry?

Based on a panel discussion held Thursday, the answer is clear-cut: yes.

From shifting patient and provider demographics and changing consumer expectations to the fast-evolving technological advances, dentists and the profession should be prepared to anticipate and adapt.

Photo of Dr. Cole speaking
Dr. Cole
ADA President Jeffrey M. Cole moderated the Is Disruption the New Normal for Dentistry? discussion, which involved Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the ADA Health Policy Institute; Dr. Lou Shuman, CEO of Cellerant Consulting Group; and Tom Seery, founder and CEO of RealSelf, an online resource that connect patients with doctors.

"The business and practice of dentistry is constantly changing, and changing dramatically," Dr. Cole said, welcoming about 300 attendees. "From the effects of consumerism resulting in on-demand services like Uber and Lyft, and in our field, do-it-your dentistry and mail order orthodontics to some of the most exciting advances in science and technology."

Other disruptors include economic pressures to drive costs down, professional uncertainty when nondentists conduct dentistry and outside influences such as third-party payers and regulators.

The panel, however, presented practical ways for dentists to address these disruptions and make their practices more consumer friendly.

For example, Dr. Vujicic said, providers can offer appointment booking online to make the process more convenient for patients.

"Who here still calls restaurants to make a reservation?" he said, adding that that was not the case not too long ago. Dentists can adapt that into their practice.

Panelists added that some larger dental companies also are bringing dental care directly to patients through visiting workplaces with mobile dental or hygiene units.

Mr. Seery encouraged dentists to be more engaged with their patients through social media, providing information about their services and practice.

Disruptors task dentists and organized dentistry leaders to continue to drive the profession forward in the most positive manner, Dr. Cole said.

"Disruption can be a good thing," he said. "It forces new ways of doing business, awakens us to new opportunities, pushes us to take risks and drives innovations that make us better."