Are You Prepared for an Endodontic Perfect Storm?

Adam S. Harwood, DMD


If there’s a perfect storm scenario that would apply to the field of endodontics, all of its key elements are lining up right now. Dental practitioners in particular would be wise to note storm clouds forming on the horizon and chart a strategic course of action accordingly. 

What is this endodontic perfect storm? Two major marketplace forces are coming together to ultimately define this disruption. The first is an increased array of technical advances, and the second is an aging population of patients who can benefit from their use.

Both these forces will result in a significant influx of patient cases for both dentists and endodontists that will require professional attention. The question facing many practices is if they are ready for the flood. 

By the Numbers  

Let’s look at some figures. According to Fior Markets, the global endodontic devices market is expected to grow from $1.45 billion in 2017 to $2.19 billion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 5.3%. But what does a boost in the manufacture of endodontic tools mean to a dental practice?

These medical device companies aren’t ramping up the production of these expensive devices for their own health. They know there’s going to be a lucrative market for them. That market is made up of the increasing number of patients who’ll ultimately need these devices, and most of them are going to come through your dental office as their first stop.

Just where is this market suddenly coming from? It’s coming from an expanding customer base of aging consumers, many of whom need specialized dental and endodontic treatments as their overall health outpaces their dental health. There’s also been a rise in the rate of cavities, which we’re seeing thanks to an increased use of acidic sports drinks, non-fluoridated bottle water, and dry mouth caused by vaping.

Another contributing factor is a growing awareness among consumers that retaining their natural set of teeth is more preferable than choosing traditional, artificial replacement options. Have you noticed your own patients becoming more aware of the procedures available to them? Have any patients suggested that they might need to see an endodontist, even before you’ve had a chance to make that determination?

Advances in endodontic treatments and word-of-mouth publicity about endodontic procedural success rates have helped solidify this perception. Our patients are becoming informed consumers because of it.

New Technologies

When it comes to new technologies, one area seeing particular significant growth in the United States is the dental laser segment. Thanks to its comparatively speedy treatment times and less patient discomfort during oral surgery, sales of yttrium aluminum garnet lasers, arguably the most popular choice, grew almost 30%.

Intraoral cameras, custom fitting digital dentures, new bonds and adhesives, the merging of biological with synthetic restorations, and other innovations like these are both lowering entry barriers for many practices and improving practitioner and patient confidence in today’s treatment methods. 

The American Association of Endodontics recently condensed its white papers related to endodontic competencyand treatment standards.  This “Reader’s Digest” version couldn’t come at a better time, because it provides endodontists a quick summation of where standards currently lie. It’s a great checklist for ensuring endodontic practices are staying current and relevant, especially given the predicted increase in patient load. And it’s encouraging to see minimal competency with technologies like CBCT clearly spelled out. 

For our practice, adding three-dimensional radiographic capabilities has led to an unexpected benefit—an upswing in referrals by area dentists. 

By letting area dental offices know about this technology (we even hosted several open houses to show off the unit), we were able to establish relationships with them and help them evaluate their patients’ dentition to rule out odontogenic pathosis.

It’s hard to determine who’s been more impressed by this technology: our patients, who can now clearly see the damage to their tooth in 3-D, or the dentists who have stopped in to see the new machine in action (see the figure).

These local dentists leave our office feeling confident that they are leaving their referred patients in good hands, which only reflects well on their practice. We’ve found that referrals that result in positive patient experiences only serve to further solidify the trust that patients have in the referring doctor.

As dental professionals, it’s time to prepare for the once in a lifetime perfect storm that’s headed our way. Now is the right time to evaluate your core services and skills and make sure your practice is well positioned to take advantage of the coming marketplace.

In addition, be sure you’re aware of the endodontists in your area. Identify the best ones and make sure those practices are where you send your patients when they need that form of specialized care. 

Dr. Harwood is a graduate of the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine with an advanced degree in endodontics. He was the first endodontist in New York to use a surgical operating microscope. Also, he is a member of the ADA and a specialist member of the American Association of Endodontists. He has taught endodontics at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, the New York University School of Dentistry, and the Metropolitan Hospital Center.

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