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What’s happening to Dentistry, Why, and What to do about It

There was a time when people would say, “All you need to do is hang your shingle and you’ll have it made.” Nobody predicted today’s exorbitant cost of a dentist’s “shingle,” the smaller ROI it now brings and how industry changes would affect dental laboratories. The story of old has crumbled. We need to tell a new story to bridge the gap between that which is, and that which should be.

Facts: What is Happening

Finally, we have good news about the economy. All measurements are up, with durable goods and manufacturing beginning a small uptick. However, private practice dentists and dental labs are continuing to lose revenues to outside interests. Insurance companies and DSOs are forcing changes to benefit themselves at the expense of 90% of the dental industry and sometimes, the patients they serve.

Outsider influence has raised the cost of a dental education to as much as $400,000, while its value has in many cases, plummeted. Sky high debt and inadequate education has made entering private practice upon graduation, the life blood of domestic dental labs, largely impractical. Meanwhile, insurance companies are lowering the number of procedures performed and their reimbursements. This has caused average annual income for dentists to drop 22%, from 2009 to 2014, and currently sits at the 1995 income level. Many labs have been equally affected, or are not growing as much as they should.

The result from the above for most dental labs is, more units need to be produced to keep a level income. Thanks to digital technology, productivity has been easily increased. However, digital technology has also increased product consistency, making new client acquisition more difficult (less reasons to look for a new lab), and lab differentiation more often about cost than quality.

Facts: Why this is Happening

Dentists and their organizations have allowed these changes to occur, and in some cases, supported them. Outsiders see patients as the headwaters of the revenue stream, and the earnings they bring, low hanging fruit in a wide open, fragmented industry. Influencing the mass market in ways that individual dentists and lab owners can’t, consumers naturally form attitudes and beliefs shaped by outsider messages and brands.

Unfortunately, everything that happens to dentists is quickly felt by dental labs. A future challenge for dental labs is, as technology advances and becomes more productive, smaller labs may be priced out, and larger labs will find it more difficult to remain profitable as price wars become more aggressive.

Below is a link to typical DSO information being distributed. Individual dentists need to confront this  with an equally powerful, but more complete, rendition:

Wisconsin Dental Board Legislation

We are not opposed to DSO practice management services. Neither is state dental board oversight. Like us, state dental boards are interested in protecting patient welfare in all practice models, as they do now only in private practice settings, or, supposed to.

DSOs have the right to exist, but not the right to practice dentistry without a license. If they are not practicing dentistry without a license, why should they care about falling under state dental board regulation? 

Why is the DSO lobby opposed to that?

Why is no one in the public spotlight asking that question?

How is being regulated by state dental boards anti competitive?

 The Response: Take Action or Do Nothing

Trends from doing nothing are clear: the number of private practices is shrinking, and we don’t see fee increases as often as decreases. The question is, “What can we do?”

The obvious first step is to organize and take advantage of newly competitive opportunities. Individualistic thinking is increasingly placing lab owners of all sizes at risk. Lab owners who want to survive and thrive need to discard the artificial barriers that have long existed and begin working for the common good.

If you are a dentist, laboratory owner, distributor, or manufacturer, now is the time.  The same mass marketing tools being used against us could be working for us. Together, we can take advantage of everything the internet offers (including social media marketing), and add public relations, pressure legislators and regulatory agencies, and develop new business models in direct competition for market influence, including insurance.

To change the trend line, we need to pull together to educate and attract consumers as informed patients who clearly understand the value of traditional dental care. The good news is, consumers only want the truth, something traditional dentistry is in the best position to provide. More good news: Accomplishing this is easier than in the past. Research shows that consumers want genuine information they can trust. No patient deliberately chooses to be misled or mistreated, yet it happens daily to hundreds, perhaps thousands while the industry remains silent. Traditional care is a key marketing advantage, but only if we make it one.

“We believe big visions need big stories to match…We believe in the power of collaborative community, and the choices you can always make to change your story. We believe in messages that make people feel inspired and connected to something greater. We are truth-seekers teaching a new paradigm of story. Michael Margolis, CEO and founder, Get Storied

Great stories untold die in obscurity.

We have a great story to tell,

But only if we are willing to tell it.

 This is Our Story to Tell

Through professional marketing and a consumer website, OPT-In Dental Advantage is the only dental organization telling the story about the value of traditional dentistry. We employ professionals for website SEO, SEO support for our members’ web pages, bi monthly consumer blogs with SEO, and more recently, a national public relations campaign, managed by Braithwaite Communications, to brand the image of traditional dentistry and present our story to consumers, nationally.

We invite dental laboratory owners, dentists, and companies to join us in making the advantages of traditional dentistry known, and preferred. Please help our voices to be heard through stories consumers want and need to hear. Contact us today.

Please visit our website, OPT-In Companies, or call us at 855-321-OPTN (6786). It’s time to be a part of the solution.