Melissa Turner, BASDH, RDHEP, EFDA, an award-winning thought leader, influencer and dental advisor, is co-creator of Oral Health United. She is chief hygiene officer for Cellerant Consulting and is a nationally published author and speaker. Cofounder of the National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference and the American Mobile & Teledentistry Alliance, Turner is the creator of the I Heart Mobile Dentistry network, podcast host, and affectionately known on Instagram as @ thetoothgirl. She can be reached at melissaturnerllc@gmail.com. 

The Dawn of a New Day – How Healthcare Delivery Is Transforming the Future of the Dental Industry


In days past, delivering dental care within the four walls of a dental practice has typically been an effective and reliable business model. But what happens when our worlds are turned upside down and the traditional methods no longer suffice? How can a shift in mindset and a simple change in how we deliver care impact our future? And what exactly does this mean for the current state of our industry? [Hint: It’s about to change everything.]

Tradition—you gotta love it and you gotta hate it. Tradition is a powerful tool that can bring us comfort and just as easily cause us grief. As is characteristic to any mature community, dentistry is a beautiful culture filled with many strong and defined traditions.

BUT WHAT DO WE DO WHEN THOSE TRADITIONS GET IN THE WAY?

For newly licensed clinicians fresh out of school, traditionally the easiest thing to do has been to follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before, adopting previous ways of doing things no matter how successful—or unsuccessful—our predecessors may have been. Time has a way of moving along; and, as it does, it is at that point when we begin to justify our own actions with phrases like “We’ve always done it this way” or “This is how it’s always been!”

However, with the dawning of this particular new year comes a particularly new way of thinking about how we “do” dentistry. No longer can we rely on the paths our predecessors chose. In this pandemic-shifted society, we must quickly adapt, innovate and carve out our own unique paths based on the demands of our current environments and the needs of our ever-evolving patients. Accompanying this change must also come a significant shift in the mindset of dental practice owners and clinicians everywhere.

The bottom line is this—thanks to the tumultuous last year, we cannot rely on our former traditions to make us successful in the future. But the great news is, thanks to innovative IT brands and forward-thinking industry leaders, the dental profession was— and is—primed and prepped to handle this industry-wide shift with minimal difficulty.

IN OUR PANDEMIC-SHIFTED WORLD, IT’S TIME TO EXPERIENCE DENTISTRY LIKE NEVER BEFORE.

Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve had to rethink how we communicate with our patients. We’ve had to learn to think outside of the four walls of our fixed dental practices. We’ve had to redefine outdated business models and experiment with new ones. We’ve had to reimagine our roles as a partners in our patients’ journeys to health.

Connecting with our patients outside of the four walls of a fixed dental practice has never before been more important. At a time when our practice doors were forced closed, at a time when quarantine measures were enforced, and at a time when dentistry topped the list of the most dangerous careers during a pandemic, the mobile delivery of dental care has provided critical answers when there were few answers to be found.

As dental providers began to explore new solutions at the start of the shutdown, many found success in meeting their patients through virtual appointments, exchanging text and photo messages, and providing emergency care in their patients’ homes. Through this, practice owners began to understand the value of connecting with patients outside of the traditional op. They began to explore additional ways to expand their care delivery models and then incorporate them as daily aspects of their businesses.

What dental providers didn’t expect, however, was the overwhelmingly positive response from their patients. You see, even without the impact of the shutdown, the dental industry was poised for an industry shift like we’ve never seen before. Technology now innovates at the speed of light with things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, voice-activated technologies and the cloud. Additionally, the rise of millennials and the increase of women in the workplace bring subtle, yet significant, shifts in priorities, lifestyle and cultural expectations.

Yet let’s not forget that just as those within the dental industry are changing, we’re also seeing a dramatic shift in the dental consumer—our patients. In this new year, the dental consumer demands convenience, flexibility and transparency in order to build trust. The dental consumer now lives in a flat world, adopting more nomadic, fast-paced and cosmetically focused lifestyles than generations before. And finally, the dental consumer wants to ensure dental and other healthcare providers are true partners in prevention and their personal journeys to health.

Traditions can both help us and hurt us. In dentistry, it’s time to say goodbye to our traditional ways of doing dentistry and say hello to a new way of doing things. In the past, the traditional dental practice rarely expanded outside of the four walls of a brick-and-mortar building. However, the dental practice of the future will certainly still be the brick and mortar with two significant changes: a mobile arm into the community and a virtual arm directly into the patient’s hand. This is the future of dentistry.

Here’s the thing—the pandemic propelled dentistry into the future. The future is here. The future is now!

INTERESTED IN LEARNING MORE ABOUT INCORPORATING TELEDENTISTRY AND MOBILE DENTISTRY INTO YOUR CLINICAL PRACTICE? CHECK OUT THE FOLLOWING RESOURCES:

The National Mobile & Teledentistry Conference

The American Mobile & Teledentistry Alliance

An Introduction to Modern Mobile & Teledentistry: How Technology, Consumer Demand & Prevention Are Shaping the Future of Dentistry

Dentistry Gone Wild Podcast

I Heart Mobile Dentistry Network

Teledentistry for Beginners Forum

Advanced Teledentistry Forum

2020 Top 40 Most Influential Leaders in Teledentistry