Let’s time travel back to dentistry in 1960. I wasn’t even alive then, let alone practicing, but I’m putting my imagination cap on. Think about the technology, the materials, and the workflow. Picture the restorative options available for a broken tooth. Now, let’s jump to the year 1965 and do the same thought experiment. Probably not that much has changed, right? Ditto for 1970 or 1975. Sure, we’ll witness improvements in composite resins and ceramics, but the day-to-day lives of dentists and the services they provided weren’t being turned upside down in five-year spans.
That has certainly changed today. As I’ve discussed before,1 I believe that we are in the midst of what Jeremy Rikfin calls the Third Industrial Revolution.2 The accelerated rate of innovations we are witnessing in dental material science, digital technology, and patient services is no coincidence. It is the result of a rare confluence of developments in energy, transportation, and communication technologies that will permanently change our profession (and virtually every other industry) forever.
And so, perhaps, it is more interesting than ever before to look forward five years and read the proverbial tea leaves. What emerging business models will grow in strength and number? What are the products we’re currently using every day that will largely disappear from our cabinets? What new services might we be offering to our patients?
Looking ahead is more than just curiosity; it’s a healthy business exercise. In this issue, I’ve asked practicing dentists and industry leaders to think about where we are right now and where we might be in five years. I hope you’ll find their analyses provocative enough to play this game for your own businesses. Your future self in 2023 will thank you.
Chris Salierno, DDS
1. Salierno C. The Third Industrial Revolution and dentistry. Dental Economics. 2017;107(9):8.
2. Rifkin J. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press; 2011.