Dentists prioritized drilling and billing over improving the patient experience. This has adverse effects on the dental health of the patient as it keeps many patients away.
Dental care in America should be admired around the world. Even though American dentists are some of the best in the world, Americans don’t visit them often enough. According to the CDC, nearly half of US citizens suffer from gum disease and one in four people suffer from untreated tooth decay. Almost one in ten people also suffer from severe gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.
Dental care can be expensive, like many other aspects of our healthcare system, and many Americans still don’t have proper dental insurance. The unequal distribution of oral health care is due to a national deficit of dentists and related health professionals. Access to care is ultimately hampered by this shortage of staff, especially for people living in remote areas.
An inevitable evil
Dental checkups are, at best, a necessary evil for the majority of us. Not everyone will ever look forward to a root canal or a cleaning below the gumline; thus, numbing, scratching and drilling are inevitably part of it. But if we are completely honest, it is not the procedures that discourage us; rather, the constant little annoyances and hassles that accompany even the most ordinary and insignificant visit to the dentist. Dentists have prioritized drilling and billing by over-optimizing the patient experience, which drives many of our patients away, with disastrous consequences for their dental health.
The importance of experience
It is a significant problem. Unwelcoming and unmotivated dental offices force many Americans to seek urgent treatment when dental problems become too serious to ignore, not only resulting in poorer dental health in people. Urgent unplanned dental care costs schools nationwide 34 million hours each year, and oral disease costs the economy $45 billion in lost productivity as people miss work to need immediate care.
Well, it starts with realizing that improving the patient experience is key to promoting equity in healthcare and better outcomes for our patients, not just a luxury. We shouldn’t be able to uncomfortably accept dental care nor do we do blurry x-rays or loose fillings.
Opportunities to improve the patient experience can be found everywhere once we start placing a higher priority on convenience. For example, online appointment booking is possible through portals that allow patients to control their schedules. Because offices are open after hours, patients can choose appointments that don’t require them to choose between their job and their oral health.
Additionally, by combining their efforts as a Dental Service Organization (DSO), practitioners can ensure that patients can book appointments immediately rather than waiting weeks or months.
Convenience is not a privilege
It would be wonderful to make dental appointments more accessible, but should dental practices really prioritize this type of investment in these difficult times?
Although not all clinics should prioritize patients convenience, there is undoubtedly a strong demand from patients for more comfortable and convenient care. More patients will understand that dental care doesn’t have to be difficult or unpleasant as more and more dental practices are committed to meeting the needs of their patients. As a result, more patients will actively seek out dental practices that provide a simple, pleasant, and low-friction patient experience.
Convenience is neither a chimera nor a luxury for today’s dental businesses; rather, it is an essential complement to high-quality care. Without convenience, we risk leaving people behind. The future of dentistry in America will require breakthrough treatments, but we must also improve the patient experience and ensure that everyone can afford dental care.