The Dental Patient Experience Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad One

The dental industry wants to improve the dental patient experience, and technological advances are making that possible.

Dentists are challenged like few others when it comes to the patient experience. Poking your teeth with a sharp instrument or raising a drill toward your mouth doesn’t shout, “this is going to be good!”

As vital to a healthy life as they are, they perpetually fight a negative stigma. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics says only 60 percent of U.S. adults visit the dentist yearly. Cost is often the reason, but fear is as much to blame.

Dental Patients Are Guests Too

They have options, and they choose your practice. They are the guest. Many practices increase volume to compensate for decreasing insurance reimbursements, which can leave the patient feeling less important.

“When you spend more time with the patient, you’re more thorough, and the patient knows you care,” says Zania Cruz, a hygienist in Central Florida. She points to the early 2000s as the time she noticed the change due to industry structure and insurance coverage.

HealthTech Magazine Points to Four Recent Advances For the Dental Patient Experience

TeledentistrySpurred by the pandemic, teledentistry uses digital technologies as a substitute for in-person visits.

Virtual Reality Provides a Show – VR is used to give dental patients a distraction from pain and anxiety, but it can’t displace reality.

Artificial Intelligence Aids in Diagnostics – AI algorithms evaluate tooth decay and abnormalities, which help determine a diagnosis.

3D Printing Cost Savings – 3D printing is a cost-effective alternative that enables dentists to create dental splints, as well as models of the jaw, to project the outcome of procedures.

Just Wake Me When It’s Over

Sedation dentistry is trending to improve the patient experience. Beyond nitrous oxide, new methods include oral conscious sedation. It utilizes medication, typically a form of valium in pill form. The patient becomes drowsy and may sleep.

IV sedation dentistry is the next level up. The dosage is adjustable, and the patient falls asleep without memory of the procedure. General anesthesia is also available for children or patients with special needs or severe anxiety.

It Doesn’t Have to Be a Bad Experience

WebMD points to seven advances in dental technology:

Digitized X-Rays replace radiographs and are a faster and more efficient alternative

Diode Lasers illuminate cavities and replace the old hand-held “explorer” tool

CAD/CAM Technology relays an image of the tooth to the machine that makes the crown in the office

Thinner Veneers minimize the need for natural tooth surface reduction

Better Filling and Bonding Materials give dentists more robust, and more attractive alternatives

Improved Dental Implants extend the life and success rate of implants

New Gum Disease Treatments stimulate tissue growth, which regenerates bone and tissue

NuCalm

NuCalm is also trending. Techniques vary, but it reduces anxiety by combining four elements:

  1. A topical cream or chewable tablet of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) suppresses adrenaline
  2. Microcurrent cranial electrotherapy stimulation (CES) pads are placed behind the patient’s ears and stimulate the brain to produce serotonin to absorb GABA
  3. Light-blocking glasses eliminate distractions and relax the body and mind
  4. Headphones producing binaural beats revert brainwaves to a pre-sleep stage

The Dental Patient Experience Can Mean a Lifetime of Smiles

Although not a technology, subscription-based dentistry is opening doors for patients who cannot afford dental care. Private practices can create their package and offer services at a monthly or annual rate. It provides uninsured and insured patients with a simpler and more affordable option.

You are the guest at the dentist, although it behooves you to be a good one. When so many options exist for all industries, the guest experience can make the difference between a one-time visit and a lifetime customer.

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