Changes to dentistry following the COVID-19 pandemic

changes from covidAn all-encompassing survey has revealed how COVID-19 has changed the lives and attitudes of dental professionals. Dentistry reports.

COVID-19 has changed life for us all but how has it impacted dentistry?

A major new study carried out by Dentistry and Dentistry Online has shed light on what life after COVID-19 could look like for dental professionals. The results, compiled from more than 400 responses, make some positive reading.

The message is one of optimism, with a focus on growth, maximising time with patients. Also a desire to face the future on practices’ own terms.

Investment ahead

The past 12 months has been very challenging for UK dentistry. However there is significant interest in developing private treatment as we come through the pandemic.

A substantial number (70%) of practices anticipate doing more private work in the next 12 months. Much of this is will be an increase in cosmetic work. And 62% expect to offer more of these treatments in future.

Nearly half (46%) of practices are actively trying to grow their businesses in the next year. Therefore the need to differentiate is accelerating spending habits too. 

Investment is set to back the surge in private and cosmetic work. Half (56%) of the practices in the UK are planning on spending £15,000 or more on capital equipment in 2021.

Top of the shopping lists are digital intraoral scanners. Half (43%) of practices plan on picking one up in 2021. Digital X-rays and new patient chairs are also high up on the priorities in high street dentistry.

Appetite for events

The study revealed the pent-up demand for face-to-face interaction. Dental professionals bemoaned the lack of networking and ‘live learning’ imposed by COVID restrictions.

Conferences and exhibitions are back on the agenda! Three quarters (76%) of professionals are keen to get back out into ‘real’ meetings again in the second half of the year, with regional-type events especially favoured.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, webinars are now clearly a central part of practice learning. Four fifths (82%) of respondents said they were now even more likely to attend webinars over the year ahead.

The internet has stepped in to fill the gaps in a big way, for education as well as commerce. Webinars are also a great way to link up with companies, respondents agreed. More than half (53%) say they were more likely to contact a company after attending a webinar event.

CPD learning has migrated almost completely online. The vast majority (85%) now turn to the web for CPD, relying on the two biggest providers, Isopharm (53%) and FMC (47%).

Media moguls

The pandemic has accelerated the growth of the internet for education and networking. It has also cemented readers’ preference for a choice of platform in others. 

Online, the clear (non-association) leader for dental professional’s news and information is our own, which is markedly ahead of all other dental websites outside of the BDA.

But demand for an app is growing as more dentists seek to stay in touch through their mobile devices. Two thirds (64%) of professionals agreed they would use a news app if it remained free to access.

Despite the immediacy of the digital world, there is still a huge appetite for the convenience and practicality of traditional media in dentistry. The vast majority of dental professionals (78%) still values printed dental magazines, highlighting the value of a varied media.

Reassuringly for the dental trade, the role of advertising – in any media – is as vital as ever.

Almost half (47%) of readers say they act on seeing adverts in dental publications. And 45% of respondents will click on company stories and banners if their products are of interest.

Presence and consistency of advertising came out as crucial in the survey. Two thirds (67%) of respondents agreed they were more likely to contact suppliers having seen them in magazines or online. Perhaps a consequence of meetings with reps having been curtailed?

A healthy way forwards

‘After months of anguish, we’re definitely seeing much more positive signs from UK dentistry going forward,’ said Guy Hiscott, editor of Dentistry.

‘We knew there would be an appetite for normality – and that the pandemic would change peoples’ outlooks too. But what’s fascinating is how many of the core values that define dentistry remain unchanged.

‘Practices want to grow; they want to spend more time with their patients and provide treatments that bring joy into their lives. To me, the statistics show a profession looking to harness patient satisfaction to their own success, which is a healthy way forwards for any business.

‘When it comes to the dental media, professionals want things on their own terms here too, which makes absolute sense.

‘Live events are in demand and badly missed with a strong appetite to get back to them – when it’s safe to do so. Practices also want CPD provided online so that they can access it as and when they want to: convenient and effective.

‘They want their professional media on their terms – digitally when the need strikes, and as magazines when they need time away from the screen or through an app when travelling or away from other options.

‘Much of these strides are already being taken. The pandemic has ushered in a new, richer media industry around dentistry that can truly say it’s risen to meet professionals’ needs.

‘It’s going to be exciting to see how these changes continue to play out as recovery continues.’

This article was written for Dentistry magazine. Read the latest issue of Dentistry magazine here.

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