Following the latest trends in dentistry is one way to help stay ahead of your competitors. The goal is not to chase every trend out there but to provide perks and services that will improve the patient experience, while demonstrating that your practice is forward-looking and committed to continuous improvement.
Here are seven 2019 dental trends that are influencing the dental industry right now. Some of them may be right for your office.
Using Social Media Algorithms to Increase Engagement
This year continues to be a challenge for dentists looking to stay on top of social media marketing. One factor that made it more difficult to have the exposure you once did: Facebook changed its algorithms to reflect a focus on friends and family and de-emphasize business ads. That practice has hurt small businesses, including dental practices.
If you want to expand your social media presence in 2019, you need to be smarter in how you use social media. Study the analytics carefully to determine who your core audience is and write the kind of posts and status updates that have been popular in the past. It's also important to know exactly when to boost your posts in order to maximize their impact.
Continued Use of Review Sites
Another way dentists continue to look for exposure is through review sites. That's because, according to a recent consumer survey, 86 percent of consumers say that they will read the reviews of a local business before making their selection, and 94 percent of them have been convinced not to use a business on the basis of one negative review.
Dentists that welcome reviews and monitor review sites in order to demonstrate engagement and customer service may find that these sites are a valuable asset in lead generation. While legal limitations may prevent you from publicly responding to a negative review, you may be able to express empathy and encourage patients to contact you offline, to listen to their concerns and resolve contacts.
3-D printing is just one of the technological advances that may revolutionize dentistry in the near future, but it's arguably the most exciting. Thanks to this technology, patients no longer have to wait for crowns, bridges, or dentures to come back from the lab. These items can be made in minutes, and they are surprisingly affordable, costing anywhere from $1500 to $10,000. Resin 3-D printers provide a high-quality finish, detail, and durability, so they are the machines of choice in dentistry.
The rise of group practices is driven by the cost-sharing benefits of being in business with other professionals while using one staff and one set of equipment. One of the main factors behind this trend is the ever-increasing cost of dental school and, as a result, an increase in the amount of student loan debt. In 2017, the average student loan debt burden for dentists was $287,331; over 30 percent of dentists owe more than $300,000.
The potential cost savings of a group practice aside, these situations may offer stability and the opportunity to build a branded enterprise that includes professionals in several dental specialty fields.
Use of Virtual Reality to Calm Patients During Procedures
Although it won't happen overnight, a handful of dentists have already begun employing virtual reality headsets to calm patients and reduce their anxiety. Research shows the calming effect of the headsets, though no one is exactly sure why it works. For patients who don't want to use drugs, this technology is an exciting new possibility.
In-House Membership Plans
Patients are often looking for more flexible ways to pay their medical and dental bills. One concept that is getting traction: offering patients the ability to pay an annual or monthly fee in exchange for discounted services. This may provide the 23 percent of patients without dental insurance a more affordable option for care.
You may want to be careful when considering this option, though. If your practice is general dentistry, the benefits are limited to the procedures you offer, and that could make an in-house plan less attractive to some patients. Moreover, the discounts you offer may be less than those found in dental insurance plans, so mandating in-house membership may cause you to lose patients.
Creating a Spa-Like Experience
At the other end of providing discounts for necessary services is the trend of pampering patients with personalized, luxurious service when they visit the dentist. Concierge dentist practices focus on reduced wait time, private consultations about treatment options, 24/7 access to the dentist and their staff for questions and concerns, and add-on services like massages and reflexology sessions right in the dental office.
If your goal is to create a dental practice that will increase the number of affluent patients, concierge dentistry may be a specialty practice to consider.
The Right Trends for Your Practice
No matter which trends end up sticking to your long term plan for success, your commitment to continuous improvement could be enough to keep patients attracted and loyal to your dental practice. In an industry where evolving technology can mean less anxiety, pain, costs or discomfort, patients may want to know you’re open to improvements and willing to change.
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