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Why Now Is the Time for Dental Innovation

The COVID-19 pandemic has severely disrupted the dental care industry.

Patient volumes have fallen, and operating costs have risen as dental offices comply with new infection control practices. Ongoing surges of the virus demonstrate that dentistry will face a turbulent environment for the foreseeable future. And the pandemic has highlighted the flaws of the traditional fee-for-service reimbursement system that drives a care model predicated on surgical interventions.

Amid this uncertain time, according to a recent survey by the DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement, more providers say they are exploring or open to the use of innovative approaches to deliver care more safely.

The survey — and the companion report — reveals the growing willingness of dental providers who serve low-income and vulnerable populations to employ vehicles such as telehealth and alternate payment models (APMs) to reach more patients, strengthen the safety of care and enhance their financial sustainability.

Some key themes from the report:

  • Telehealth can be used to enhance access and a dental office’s financial sustainability through synchronous or asynchronous means. Shifting some patients to asynchronous visits may open up associated staff and chair time for other patients.
  • Telehealth benefits both patients and providers.
    • For patients, technology-enabled care improves access and enables people more vulnerable to COVID-19 to receive care without leaving home.
    • For providers, teledentistry can minimize the gap between normal patient volumes and those experienced as the COVID-19 pandemic endures.
  • By aligning payment with desired patient outcomes, alternative payment models offer a financially sustainable way for dental providers to advance value-based care that focuses more on prevention.
  • The DentaQuest Partnership has outlined a Three Domain Framework that advances patient and provider well-being, while reducing the cost burdens associated with poor quality of life due to oral disease. The Framework presents a new model of dentistry, a roadmap for future care that will be cost-effective, efficient and more equitable.

Read the full survey report, “Reshaping Dentistry in Turbulent Times.”