Financial concerns are the top challenge that Canadian dentists intend to address in their practice in 2020, according to the Dental Industry Association of Canada (DIAC) Twenty-Fourth Annual Future of Dentistry Survey. In 2019, financial concerns were the fourth biggest challenge. However, dentists remain optimistic regarding most other 2020 aspects of operating their practices in the future, DIAC reported.
This year’s survey was designed and launched prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it was conducted between February 1 and the first week of June 2020 and includes the opinions of dentists during the period of closures due to the lockdowns. Due to the timing of the survey, no specific questions were included addressing the impact of COVID-19 on dentistry.
After financial concerns, the top challenges among Canadian dentists included getting more patients, staffing issues, acceptance of treatment plans, and installing new equipment and office upgrades. The ranking of these issues resembled 2018 and 2019 poll results. They also reflect the continuing concerns of the typical dental practice expressed over the years before the onset of the pandemic and appear to be unchanged based on this year’s results.
What does appear to be growing, DAIC said, is the impact of incorporating technology in the office, which 32% now rate as a key metric for success, as well as the creation of a new category of concern, securing proper personal protective equipment (PPE). The continuing positive outlook toward the future also is evident in other survey findings about dentists’ plans for investing in their practices and in their abilities, including:
- While the trend toward larger practices in terms of numbers of dentists and operatories noted in previous surveys has continued, more than 22% of 2020 respondents still intend to add one or more new operatories in the next two years. This percentage has remained basically unchanged since 2017.
- Dentists still intend to purchase new equipment over the next two years at the same rate as in the past, with digital impression systems still the top intended equipment purchase (38% of respondents), followed by electric handpieces (29%) and cone-beam computed tomography (23%).
- The percentage of respondents with a fully paperless office reached 40% in 2020.
- The percentages of digitization in the individual practice areas studied, including x-ray (91%), operatories (71%), private offices (70%), and charting (57%), are now all over 50% and continue to increase.
- Social media continues to climb the list of practice-building tools used, with 52% of respondents in 2020 using it, which is now second only to asking for referrals in popularity.
- More than half still plan to have a specialist place their implants, but 29% are now placing implants themselves, which is up from 21% last year.
- 40% now use or plan to use guided implant surgery in their practice.
- More than 50% now expect to use modeless restorations for single-unit cases.
- A record high of 50% are participating in one or more study clubs in 2020, up from an average of 38% the previous eight years.
A total of 440 practicing Canadian dentists responded to this year’s survey with a good proportional distribution across all regions of the country, DIAC said.