December 22, 2016
by Dr. Normand Bach
For as long as people have had teeth, there’s been a keen interest in keeping them healthy or at least, that’s what everyone would like to believe. In reality, oral hygiene has only been on our radar since the 20th century. But we’ve come a long way since then and now, in 2016 there are trends covering every aspect of oral health imaginable.
Here’s what shaped 2016 in the oral hygiene industry, from tech and treatments to public health and social media. We’ll start out with one that’s truly exciting, because it’s already changing peoples’ lives in significant ways.
1. Sleep Breathing Problems & OAT
Ask many of your colleagues what big trend they’ve seen in 2016 and you may hear a lot about the dentistry industry’s role in helping people with sleep breathing problems. Namely, we’re talking about “oral appliance therapy” (OAT) for people with apnea and other breathing disorders.
OAT helps treat these disorders by re-positioning the lower jaw and tongue during sleep hours. It’s also much more comfortable than the alternative therapy: CPAP.
The effectiveness of oral appliance therapy has been studied for more than 20 years, and a recent comprehensive review of all the research done thus far reveals support for the methodology of OAT.¹ We’ll definitely be keeping our eye on this exciting line of developments for 2017.
2. New Dentists’ Views About Technology
As Boomers age and retire, Gen X and Millennials move up to take their places in the ranks of our workforce. Of course, they bring with them new ideas about the increased role of technology, as is the case in every industry, not just dentistry.
Of course our patients are also increasingly tech-savvy people and they too have higher expectations when it comes to the technical capabilities of their dentists. New products, new services, and even new procedures made possible by advances in technology have had a tremendous impact in 2016.
Finally, with increased connectivity among patients, thanks to review sites and other internet-based sources of knowledge, our patients are more informed than ever. To compete, we’re offering increasingly improved in-office experiences to all our patients in every way possible.
3. New Software and Technology
It’s not just our patients and new practitioners who are changing. The whole world seems to be going digital, and the oral health industry is no exception. With the introduction of digital impressions, 3-D printers, smart sterilizers, 3-D intra-oral scanners and more, dental practice businesses are changing faster than ever.
One exciting development is in the area of Intra-oral scanners. These devices and software offer hyper-realistic digital views of patients’ mouth for diagnosis purposes as well as for communicating information to patients about their dental care. They’re also used to take digital impressions to create appliances and restorations.
Imaging is based on artificial intelligence algorithms that improve the view over time, too. Increased accuracy has led to huge advantages for practitioners who’ve adopted the latest software.
4. Dental Care for Working-Age Adults and the Elderly
Canadian dental clinics continue to be extremely accessible with minimal waiting times, if any. About three-quarters of Canadians visit the dentist in any given year, and most are satisfied with their experience.³
“[O]ral health outcomes have improved for adults in both Canada and the US… Canada appears to have made somewhat better progress in improving oral health among disadvantaged populations.” -McGill University researchers³
Nevertheless, there is an increasing demand for more government involvement in ensuring that accessibility is equal for all Canadian citizens. As dental care is pretty much a private sector phenomenon in Canada, that would represent some significant changes.
So, while overall outcomes in dental health for working-age adults have improved, some adults are increasingly isolated from these advances, and find themselves left behind due to cost prohibitions.
Almost all dental coverage is funded by private sources, whether it’s out-of-pocket or employer-based. And, since the number of Canadians with insurance is decreasing, fewer people now have the funding they once had for dental services. For some, things are getting worse.
“Their teeth are atrocious, and the result is that they live in pain, and it affects their nutrition, mental health and cardiovascular health.” -Dr. Stephen Hwang, Centre for Research on Inner City Health
We’ve seen small seedlings of change in 2016, but by no means is this a short-term trend. Expect to see more in the year to come on the state of dental coverage for working-age adults.
On a related topic, aging Baby boomers are creating ever-growing need for geriatric dentistry. As the average life expectancy grows, more and more people find themselves in need dental care.
5. Smiles and Selfies
Finally, something good to come of the “selfies” trend! As you’ve probably noticed, people love taking selfies. Now that most phones have video too, and video-sharing platforms (including Facebook Live) are common, people are taking videos of just about every thing: including brushing their teeth!
People are more likely to use proper brushing techniques when they’re being “filmed”, which of course in the long run leads to better overall oral hygiene. Plus, just knowing your smiles will be captured forever in every selfie you take means you’ll want to pay more attention to dental health anyway. Funny how things turn out that way!
So, as 2016 comes to a close, we have a full retrospective view of the year’s trends: the good, the bad, and the ugly. We hope we’ve covered it all in an enjoyable way, by offering up some fun trends as well as some that require serious discussion by healthcare professionals and policymakers in Canada. It’s our way of doing what we can to bring oral health and dental hygiene to the forefront of our readers’ minds.
As we move into 2017, keep an eye out for some more trend analysis. We’ll bring you predictions and what to watch out for in the year to come. Until then, in good health!
1. Ferguson, Kathleen et al. Oral Appliances for Snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea: A Review. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Retrieved 12/13/2016 from http://www.aasmnet.org/Resources/PracticeParameters/Review_OralApplianceOSA.pdf
2. Oral Appliance Therapy. Retrieved 12/13/2016 from http://www.centerforsoundsleep.com/treatments/oral-appliance-therapy/
3. The Other Health Care System: Four Areas Where the Private Sector Answers Patients’ Needs. Retrieved 12/13/2016 from http://www.iedm.org/files/chapt3-cahier0115_en.pdf
4. Picard, Andre. Cost of Dental Care in Canada Keeps Patients Away. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 12/13/2016 from http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/cost-of-dental-care-in-canada-keeps-patients-away/article20590523/
About the Author
Dr. Normand Bach received his dental degree from the University of Montreal in 2002, and completed a certificate of multidisciplinary residency at Notre-Dame Hospital in 2003. In 2008, Dr. Bach completed a Master’s Degree of Science and a Certificate in Orthodontics at the University of Montreal. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Montreal and is responsible for the undergraduate orthodontic clinic, in addition to maintaining a private practice limited to orthodontics in Montreal. http://orthodontistemontreal.com/
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