Becker's Dental + DSO Review

April 2022 Becker's Dental + DSO Review

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27 BECKER'S DENTAL + DSO REVIEW // VOL. 2022 NO. 2 THOUGHT LEADERSHIP Dental education debt is killing the private practice By Riz Hatton T he dental industry — and there- fore the DSO landscape — has experienced groundbreaking development and transformation over the last two years. As debt looms over fresh dental school graduates' heads, dreams of opening their own practice seem beyond reach. As debt looms over fresh dental school graduates' heads, dreams of opening their own practice seem beyond reach. Matt Carlston, DMD, a practicing dentist and vice president of marketing and partner recruitment for Lakewood, Colo.-based Comfort Dental Group, spoke with Becker's about how dental school debt is stunting the growth of private practices. Comfort Dental Group is a network of ownership-based practices. It allows doctors to continue their private prac- tices with additional support. Editor's note: Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity. Question: How does student debt affect the dental industry? Dr. Matt Carlston: I think that these young dentists don't fully understand how much debt they have and how hard it is to get that paid off. [Comfort Dental] tries to lay out the numbers and help them try and understand that. I haven't met a dental student who goes out and opens their own practice from scratch. It just doesn't happen anymore. They have so much debt and they can't get the financing for these practices that they want to open. Q: Is there a way to make the concept of new dentists opening their practices a reality again? MC: I don't know how it would be possible with the amount of debt they have. I just don't know. I think if you're willing to go to an area where it's underserved that it's possible, but if you want to live in a metropolitan area, I just don't know how it can happen. [Comfort Dental] has some practices that are located in some mountain communities in Colorado, very suc- cessful practices. It's really hard to get dentists to commit to living outside of a big city. So if dentists are willing to commit to going to a smaller communi- ty that is underserved, then I think that could be possible, but at this point with the amount of debt they have, I don't see it happening. Q: What's the best way for the newer generation of dentists to prepare for entering the current dental market? MC: I think it's very important that they don't get themselves caught up in a situation that is going to delay their career for three or four years, especial- ly with the amount of student loan debt that they'll have. I talk to dentists al- most daily who are in a position where they've been out of dental school for three or four years and it's not what they were promised with some of these larger DSOs and they're looking for a way out or an alternative career path. n The next revolutionary trend in dental By Riz Hatton A t the intersection of dentistry and technology is inno- vation. Michael Schwartz, CEO of Specialty Dental Brands, spoke with "Becker's Dental + DSO Review Podcast" about the use of AI and machine learning in dentistry. Note: This is an edited excerpt. Question: What are some of the big trends that you are following right now? Michael Schwartz: I really like the technology that's going on in the dental field. I think we're seeing bits and pieces across all parts of our industries today and it's in our daily lives, but the one that pops to the front of my mind in dentistry is [ar- tificial intelligence]. I mean, you hear people talk about AI a lot. Everybody has a different definition of what AI is. I think what we're seeing in dentistry is how AI is coming into play. It's starting more on kind of the X-ray diagnostic technology. When I think about AI, I kind of weave in machine learning. When you can build a database or some type of repository where you could upload hundreds of thousands of X-rays and then apply the AI and the machine learning to that. I think what you're seeing some of these companies do is allowing doctors to have almost a robotic assistant that's helping diag- nose and see things because it's referencing — instead of just the doctor's eyes — it's referencing this database of hundreds of thousands of X-rays. The machine learning can say, "Hey, when we see this, X on this X-ray, we know that that means Y issue." "That's a caries or that's a potential need for a root ca- nal." So that's really exciting. I think it's really big in the general practice model. I think it'll start weaving in a little bit more into specialty practices, but I think that technology, the next step from just reading X-rays will be going into kind of machine learning, AI treatment planning. n

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