Oral Health Group

Goodbye 2020! Hello 2021

December 4, 2020
by Dr. Walter Heidary, BS, MS, DDS

What can be said for 2020? Dentistry was completely shut down and no one was prepared. The dental industry had to fight for its life and for survival. On March 15, we closed our office and expected to create a plan to open within two weeks. We experienced pain from revenue cessation, overhead continuation, lack of supplies (PPE), employee challenges, bank debt and covenant issues. Personal fear and anxiety took over. Sometimes reason was left behind.

It was confusing and, for the most part, I felt alone. A dentist on an island with oceans of uncertainty around me. I needed my night guard. And so many of my peers could relate.


Dentistry would be changed forever. We needed to: change our environments (closed rooms, HEPA filters, etc.), acquire PPE, find new suppliers that could equip us as normal supply chains were compromised, develop contactless patient experiences and provide digital treatment plans. Plus, we had to understand and implement risk management strategies for patients and team as well as have empathy for team issues. Perhaps this was (and is) our biggest challenge. With so many changes, stress on the team was evident. The administrative team had the heavy lifting. Hygienists had their college conflicts. Associate dentists had different financial burdens, while owner-dentists had to get really involved.

Meanwhile, patients were waiting for us to get our act together. They needed to re-gain confidence in dental care in general. The practices that communicated via emails, videos, and newsletters, were much more successful at raising the confidence level of their patients.

So what should we look towards in 2021? I believe we need to think outside the box. It’s time to digitalize and bring in artificial intelligence to reduce the burden and dependence on people. It’s time to automate for efficiency. Virtual consults will provide access and help with new patients, urgencies, consultations and treatments. Virtual dental services will help manage cases and timelines between appointments. Cycle of care must include contactless experiences; virtual screening, waiting rooms, and completions of care, plus virtual payment apps and schedulers. Suppliers and e-commerce sites will help practices optimize buying by using AI to create volume purchasing and source materials across all suppliers.

New services including COVID antibodies testing and their related apps will simplify access to this data. Dentistry now offers health passports that can establish the tracking of vaccines, status of antibodies, contact tracing and all necessary screening tools.

Based on these transformations, 2021 will be full of excitement and perhaps offer a more rewarding way of practicing. Dentistry has changed and we need to continue the conversation.

We will also need to consider the lingering impacts going forward. And we must keep the following top of mind:

  • Valuation of practises and practice inventory on the market.
  • New practice designs that prioritize air filtration / air exchange in treatment rooms, minimizing fallow time.
  • Associates versus owners. The impact and responsibility of ownership.
  • Debt versus equity covenants and our own spending mindsets.
  • How dental colleges regain the trust of its registrants will be paramount for the industry to grow together.

I wish you all wonderful health, happiness and prosperity.

About the Author

Dr. Walter Heidary is a practicing dentist with 20+ years of experience, focusing on the desired smiles and orthodontics for patients. Founder of Heidary Health and Desired Smiles – a large-scale employer focusing on building team culture while improving corporate wellness. Dr. Heidary has been practicing dentistry since 1993. He is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He is licensed to practice by the Royal College of Dental Surgeons and is licensed in all provinces in Canada.

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