Restorative dentistry is a rapidly growing sector of the dental industry in Beverly Hills, but for various reasons, it still lags behind more traditional restorative dentistry in popularity. For customers to pursue this form of dentistry more vigorously, three things must change: costs of procedures must come down; education of patients and potential patients must increase, and technologies associated with various procedures must continue to advance and improve. Positive movement in these three areas should lead to a substantial increase in the number of patients pursing restorative dentistry as a treatment option and in the number of dental procedures performed annually.
Restorative Dentistry Remains Prohibitively Expensive for Many Consumers
Cost is the primary factor limiting access to routine dental procedures for the majority of consumers. Insurance companies are partly to blame for this; except in rare circumstances where those companies view a traditionally restorative procedure as necessary for a patient’s oral health, insurance companies deem cosmetic procedures as elective surgeries and therefore refuse to pay for them. This limits access to cosmetic dental procedures—even simpler, relatively inexpensive procedures such as whitening and bonding—to wealthier individuals with disposable income.
Many restorative dental procedures also require dental imaging (x-rays), which insurance companies also frequently decline to cover and which are cost-prohibitive. Materials and lab costs are another detrimental factor, as the materials necessary to perform certain cosmetic procedures are comparatively expensive, and the lab costs associated with cosmetic procedures are also elective costs which must be paid out-of-pocket by the consumer.
For access to this type of dentistry to be more widely available, the costs associated with cosmetic procedures will have to come down, either directly or through indirect subsidy such as coverage by insurance.
Education of Consumers Must Be a Priority
It is a harsh reality that many existing dental patients don’t even ask about dentistry options. If existing patients don’t ask, then individuals who are not regular dental patients are even less likely to inquire. It isn’t entirely clear whether this is a result of a general lack of awareness of the various restorative dental options that are out there or if patients are hesitant to ask, for reasons including embarrassment or finances. Regardless, the lesson is that dental professionals must do much more to improve patient and consumer education of the types and benefits of cosmetic dentistry.
Another unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of individuals who do make inquiries into cosmetic dentistry are female. That means that nearly half the available patient/consumer market is untapped. Education needs to be directed at male patients, who should be helped to become both more familiar with dental procedures and more comfortable asking about them.
The upside is that dental professionals have a genuine opportunity to educate patients and potential patients on the benefits of restorative dentistry and why it can be a beneficial investment. This will inure to the benefit of everyone, as patients can make substantial improvements to their oral health and dentists can grow their professional practices.
Technology Must Continue to Improve
Patients almost inevitably benefit from improvements in medical technology, and this is true for dental technology as well. While it is true that technological innovation is usually accompanied by an initial increase in price, as new, state-of-the-art technologies are available only to those who can afford them, such technologies usually lower the costs of procedures once they are adopted widely.
As dental technology improves, treatment options and techniques tend to become less invasive, making them faster to perform and less onerous for the patient. Cutting edge tools such as highly focused dental lasers allow for the improvement of] appearance, and even for micro-targeting of problems areas, with minimal pain. To the extent that patients are hesitant to ask about restorative dental options due to fear of burdensome procedures or painful or protracted recovery, technological developments cannot come quickly enough.
As part of a general attempt to educate patients and consumers about cosmetic dental options, dentists should inform patients about the benefits of new technologies, opening a dialogue between patient and practitioner about how restorative dentistry can help improve patient health and improve appearance. Increased awareness combined with more affordable technology will ultimately lead to a significant increase in the number of patients pursuing cosmetic dentistry on a routine basis.