“The Future of Dentistry In India”
Before we contemplate the future, it is essential that we reminisce the past and introspect the present.
Dentistry in India is a much recent development than in Europe and the Americas. The first college of Dentistry in India was set up in the 1940s.
Till then, toothache patients had relied on roadside quacks, barbers, or family members for tooth extractions. Root canal treatments were unheard of. Fillings used to be known as “masala.”
The Worm Theory was still the recognized etiology of a toothache. Dentures used to be the last resort of the edentulous, made from questionable materials.
Fast-forward to 2017.
Can we agree that things have improved in totality?
In my only six years of hospital and private practice, I still get patients who have been victims of quackery, “home medicine” hacks, or pure self-harm when they have tried to extract teeth on their own using unsterilized instruments.
I still get rural patients who prefer going to the local “bez” because he can show them worms crawling out of extracted teeth. For these poor people, root canals are more expensive than self-neglect; dentures are cheaper than qualified dentists’ fees.
There are a few questions that we need to ask ourselves.
- Why are we left with no choice but to lament this limbo in our profession? Isn’t it because of our own doing?
- Have we kept our standards and protocols high, be it in dental education, continuing dental education, dental jobs, and dental practice?
- More importantly, have we made our services accessible to the rural poor?
- Do we willingly work in rural areas?
- Do we spend enough time and resources to educate the masses?
- How many awareness campaigns have we been part of?
- Does the government think of us as indispensable healthcare professionals?
What Are The Problems with Dentistry in India?
(Please note that we are just trying to mention the general problems gathered after talking to many dentists)
For those of us who work or practice in semi-urban and urban localities (80%), there are many issues that plague us. Unprofessionalism in Dentistry must be done away with.
Unprofessionalism is not something that we consciously subject ourselves to. It just comes to us on its own.
A little compromise here, a small discount there, a little badmouthing about your competitor etcetera contribute little by little to the cumulative mess we individually find ourselves in today.
Now compound all this to the total number of dentists in a locality, and we will find our answer to the decadence we have descended into.
2. The Price War:
The price war among dentists, especially new graduates, is a significant hurdle in the march of Indian Dentistry towards any progress.
It is a downward spiral from which there’s no economic recovery. It is logical: the lower price will mean cheaper materials and instruments, which in turn results in inferior quality treatments in most cases.
Our reputations as skilled clinicians take a beating.
We must keep our costs reasonably high (not unethically unreasonable) to keep our treatments at peak levels, and all of us must have a consensus for the same.
3. False Badmouthing Fellow Dentists:
Badmouthing our competitors is very prevalent in Indian dentistry.
We should welcome creative criticism, but it should be done within our own community and NEVER in front of our patients.
If a patient badmouths another dentist in front of me, I pretend not to hear those allegations at all, even if I somehow know the other dentist’s fault.
If we indulge in such unprofessional behavior, we send out signals to our patients that our field is morally corruptible with jealousy and unhealthy competition.
Many patients will, in fact, try to extract benefit out of this situation. They will feel that talking bad about your fellow dentists they can massage your ego and get some discount.
The article continues on the next slide. Go to next slide to see the problem number 4, 5 & 6 with dentistry in India.
What Are The Problems with Dentistry in India?
(Please note that we are just trying to mention the general problems gathered after talking to many dentists)
4. The Experience of the patients:
Patients’ experiences play a humongous role in deciding what kind of dentists we make out ourselves to be.
The experiences can range from pain and horror to just not liking the ambiance of the operatory area.
We must invest in our practices accordingly, keeping in mind how we would like to be treated in case we, find ourselves on the other side of the dentist chair.
5. Taking Dental Health/Treatments Awareness Campaigns more Seriously: (Making People Aware that Dentists are also Doctors)
Those of us who are already in jobs, whether in government or corporate sector, are lucky to be so since at present the newer graduates are finding it difficult to find any.
With the rising number of dental graduates year after year, the establishment finds itself one step behind regarding job creation and workforce absorption.
Most hospitals find themselves in doldrums before investing in a dental setup because of lack of awareness regarding what treatment procedures a dentist is capable of undertaking.
Hence, it is not just the general public that needs to be targeted during awareness campaigns; the policymakers need to know our indispensability and treat us at par with other healthcare professionals.
We are doctors first and foremost, irrespective of who says or thinks otherwise.
It is a complete non-question. However, still many people put forward this question – “Are Dentist’s Doctors?” Read the article below to know more.
6. Uneven distribution of Dentists:
Then, there’s the problem of unevenness in the distribution of dentists. Almost everyone wants to work and practice in cities/urban areas, which explains why city dentists clamor for space and patients, while rural dentists make do with cheaper provisions because supplies are hard to come by.
It also roughly explains in a way why treatment charges have no uniformity between urban and rural areas.
In a previous article, we compared in detail on the advantages and disadvantages of practicing dentistry in urban areas versus small towns.
7. Not following Dental Protocols:
There’s also the problem of we dentists not conforming to ethics and strict protocols regarding sterilization and other clinical practices.
Some of us resort to quackery to earn a quick buck; some of us even go to the extent of conniving with quacks to establish our own growing practices.
If this is how we plan on managing our chosen profession, then I very sadly and regretfully have to state that state-of-the-art advances in Modern Dentistry like lasers, Digital Smile Design, Guided Implantology, Full-mouth Rehabilitation, CAD-CAM, Digital Practice Management and other advanced modalities will but remain a pipe dream for us to perform, and for our patients to benefit from.
The Future of Dentistry in India must aim to resolve the glitches as mentioned above in our ecosystem.
However, all is not lost on us dentists. There seems to be a silver lining to every dark cloud, and I am of the opinion that Indian Dentistry is no exception. It is where The Utopia of Indian Dentistry becomes every dentist’s dream ecosystem.
There have been dentists who have been striving to make this dream a reality with varying degrees of success. If we all strive together to this end, I see no reason why we must be stuck in limbo; rapid strides towards progress can only be made with joint efforts.
So what are the solutions to all the problems mentioned above? What is the way forward for a better scenario of dentistry in India?
The article continues in the next slide
In the previous slides, we discussed the top 7 problems faced by dentists and dentistry in India. Moving forward, the author will now review the probable solutions.
How do we fight for the Future of Dentistry in India?
1. Awareness Campaigns:
Mass campaigns to educate not just the general public, but also other healthcare professionals regarding oral and dental diseases and deformities.
2. Impeccable clinical and ethical skills:
We must have mentorship programmes made mandatory for new graduates before they open their clinical setups. There’s so much more to dentistry than what is taught in colleges. Continuing Dental Education programmes are doing their bit, and we must make the most of them to keep our skills honed.
3. Tackling Dental Quackery:
We must denounce quackery vocally, publicly and unanimously. There are laws against quackery, which we must take refuge of.
Quackery is a much-neglected aspect of dentistry. It is still prevalent in many urban areas and the majority of the small towns/semi-urban and rural areas. Collectively and economically it costs legitimate dentists millions every year.
We have previously covered in detail about dental quackery in India and how to tackle it effectively.
4. Dental Insurances and Insurances for Dental Practice:
An enormous segment of the Indian Population never visits a dentist simply because they cannot afford it. Insurance can take care of this.
The patient pays a yearly premium which can cover all necessary procedures, and afterward, the dentist can claim his expenses from the insurance company.
It is a win-win situation for all parties involved. In fact, all developed countries provide dental insurance to their citizens in some form.
5. Indemnity Insurance:
Every dentist must protect ourselves from litigation, libel, slander, and fraudulent practices of others. Luckily, many associations provide group insurance to dentists.
Dentists should also get into the habit of taking insurance for their practice. However, many dentists tend to neglect this aspect. Read the article below to understand in detail the importance of insurances for a dentist and how it can safeguard your dental practice.
The article continues in the next slide with more solutions (Number 6, 7, 8 & 9) to improve the future of dentistry in India. Go to next slide
We are continuing with much-required solutions for the betterment of Dentistry in India. Next in this is points 6, 7, 8 & 9
6. The Price Wars:
This is done by those of us who have minimum liabilities in our practices and are of the firm belief that keeping our treatment charges low would help us getting more patients.
However, the converse is true in the long run. Even though we might lure a few “price-shoppers” to our clinics, but any attempt to increase our treatment charges will inadvertently meet with much resistance.
It is best not to put ourselves in this rut. All treatment charges must be adjusted for annual inflation that is 6-8%.
7. Job Opportunities for Dentists:
In regards to dentistry, two types of awareness are necessary. The perception among patients to opt for better oral health and treatments.
At the same time, the awareness among the government and various private/corporate sectors to create job opportunities for dentists.
Not every new dental graduate can start up with a practice set up. Hence, increased job opportunities (in private and corporate setup) will lead more stability to the graduates. It will also result in general population being more aware regarding the oral health problems and treatments.
8. The wow factor & Social Presence:
Social Presence: All dental professionals must engage socially and professionally to take stock of each others’ issues and issues plaguing Dentistry in India.
Our Associations must speak for its patrons when any injustices occur. They must vouch for all dentists in their periodicals and also become the mouthpiece of the dental community. There should be no ill will amongst us.
At the same, every dentist should work to increase their social presence in the real world. It is something many dentists lack as they are lazy. Therefore, actively participate in social events and try to address the gatherings.
It is a very effective way to making people aware of your dental practice and also motivating them to take care of oral health.
The Wow Factor:
We must incorporate systems into our practices that make the patients’ experiences joyful so that the visit to the dentists’ office becomes something one actually looks forward to.
This effort is many times investment-oriented and requires both time and money. However, it advisable to periodically update your dental practice to add more of the Wow Factors. For inspiration, you may check out the Top 20 Innovative Dental Clinics in the World.
9. Adopting Speciality Dental Practice and mutually beneficial Referral System:
All of us must consent to a system of referrals where everyone gets to work on our specialties, without squabbling amongst ourselves for patients. An alternative to this idea would be visiting consultant specialists.
With the increasing competition among dentists, it can be an alternative. Rather than fighting among ourselves, we can support each other by referring the patients to the required dental specialists.
This mutually beneficial referral system will result in an increase in professional contacts and also in getting more patients. (in addition to the regular patients who visit your clinic)
The article continues in the next slide with more solutions to improve the future of dentistry in India. Go to next slide
We are continuing with much-required solutions for the betterment of Dentistry in India. Next in this is points 10 & 11
10. Using “Marketing” to Get New Patients
There are legal ways of marketing our services, and we must invest in them. There is nothing wrong with it, and as long as we adhere to DCI Marketing norms, we must make full use of it to provide the best for our patients.
With the increasing number of dentists in the Urban sectors, one of the biggest struggles is to get a regular flow of new patients to your dental practice.
In this scenario, consistent and sensible marketing campaigns (both ONLINE & OFFLINE) are of high significance to make your dental practice create a name/presence among the general population of your locality.
The success of every practice depends on an adequate number of new patients weekly or monthly. However, it takes a lot of planning and consistent effort to achieve this. Read the article below to know all the marketing tricks to more new patients to your dental practice.
11. Adapt to changing times:
Dentistry has seen many changes in the past two decades for better. With the advent of superior materials and treatment modalities, we must also adapt to the changing tides, lest we become obsolete and fail to provide the best treatment to our patients.
For example, Amalgam restorations must be done away with since it belongs to another era when other filling materials were not available. Another example would be to invest in a Digital X-ray since it requires less radiation exposure and also reduces patient’s chairside time.
With time and experience, we should upgrade our practices to include modern, advanced and easier-to-use equipment like intraoral sensors, Laser, OPG, CADCAM, CBCT, patient management software and others.
The trick is to do away with anything that prevents us from providing the best for our patients.
At the same time, changes are also there on how you market your dental practice. You cannot expect your practice to be successful just because your work is good. You need to reach people to make them realize your worth. Therefore, be very flexible and learn how to use offline as well as online marketing. Read the article below to get more clarity:
The article concludes in the next slide. See the next slide for the ultimate solution to adapt to changing scenario in dentistry. Go to next slide
In this article, we have till now covered TOP 7 problems faced by dentists and also the TOP 11 solutions to improve dentistry. In the last slide, we will cover a most practical and updated in response to the current scenarios in dentistry.
Solution number 12: Start Group practices
This is the most important aspect of Dentistry of the future, though no one talks about it. The future of Dentistry lies in the group practice, irrespective of rural or urban localities.
This is the only way to curb the overcrowded melee of dental clinics that we see everywhere.
This will ensure that every newcomer gets an adequate residency programme fulfilled, and they can buy into the same practice when he/she has gathered enough skills and experience.
It is prudent in many ways because such a practice will benefit the patients the most where they will get all dental and oral solutions under one roof, and our field will also declutter in that effort.
All liabilities can then be shared, without having to worry about day to day overheads and micromanagement. A proper delegation of duties is an essential aspect of Group Practice.
Conclusion & Recap:
The Future of Dentistry in India warrants a complete overhaul and paradigm shift from our present way of thinking. However, with proper cooperation and good leadership, the Utopia of Indian Dentistry is possible provided we do not dwell much on the past and rectify all our follies in the present.
In this extensive review, we have covered the scenario of dentistry in India in detail – with all the existing problems and the possible solutions. Let us just recap the points once more, so that you can be alerted once more.
We sincerely hope that you will be careful of the problems mentioned in this article and also adopt some of the solutions mentioned.
The Top 7 Problems with Dentistry in India
2. The Price Wars
3. False Bad Mouthing Fellow Dentists
4. The Experience of Patients
5. No Serious Awareness Campaigns on the importance of Oral Health and Treatments
6. Uneven distribution of Dentists
7. Not following the proper dental protocols
Solutions for a better future of Dentistry in India
1. Awareness Campaigns
2. Impeccable Clinical & Ethical skills
3. Tackling Dental Quackery
4. Dental Insurances for patients, Insurances for the safety of dentists
5. Indemnity Insurance
6. Solution to price wars
7. Job Opportunities for Dentists (Govt. & Corporate)
8. Creating Wow Factor & Social Presence (online and offline)
9. Speciality Dental Practice & Referral System
10. Proper use of Marketing to get new patients to practice.
11. Adapt to changing time and sensibility.
12. Starting Group Practices.
This article is written by Dr. Chinmoy Hazarika. He is a practicing dentist and an avid blogger.
He writes at drchinmoyhazarika.com. He has also authored a Novel Crooked Crusader: Morally Impaired
You can read more of his amazing articles at DentalOrg.com below: