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Looking ahead: Why digitalization holds the key to futureproofing the dental sector post COVID-19

With dentists much more at risk of getting infected with COVID-19 due to the nature of their job, the sector is now turning to digitalization and teledentistry solutions as an alternative.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now faced with a “new normal” and the many implications it brings For the dental industry, this means keeping patients and doctors safe, whilst finding new ways to continue to deliver innovative solutions that will empower doctors to provide the best quality care for their patients during this difficult period As we adapt to this new version of reality however, there are a number of positive learnings we can take with us, many of which we can expect to live on well after we return to our “normal” way of life

Author: Markus Sebastian, SVP and MD of Align Technology EMEA

The events of the last months have posed unprecedented challenges for both businesses and individuals alike, which have had a resounding impact on every industry, community and human being across the globe. Even the best thought-out business continuity plans could not have predicted a turn of events as unpredictable as those we find ourselves in today. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re now faced with a “new normal” and the many implications it brings. For the dental industry, this means keeping patients and doctors safe, whilst finding new ways to continue to deliver innovative solutions that will empower doctors to provide the best quality care for their patients during this difficult period.

While we do not know for certain when the situation will be contained and the recently reopened clinics will fully recover, our collective focus right now needs to be on what we can do to support one another as a community, and ensure we can continue to reach those who need us most. We are fortunate to live in an age when we have the tools to help us do just this. At Align Technology, this means tenaciously exploring the difference we can make and the value we can bring to our doctors and patients through our digital services – Invisalign clear aligners and iTero scanners and services. 

According to a report published in the New York Times, dentists are eight times more at risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus. Hence, in the short term, we will likely see a number of practices adapting to the situation with the increased use of digitization and teledentistry solutions. Only patients who need emergency procedures or treatments that are directly linked to their overall health are likely to take precedence for in-person treatment. 

As we adapt to this new version of reality however, there are a number of positive learnings we can take with us, many of which we can expect to live on well after we return to our “normal” way of life. For example, through newly established telehealth offerings that we have seen implemented by doctors across the UAE and wider region, people can now attend certain types of virtual appointments with health experts directly through online channels. This ease of access to quality healthcare and medical experts without stepping foot outside of one’s own home will surely help to save time and energy and provide newfound-benefits such as convenience, which many will be reluctant to give up in their ever-busy lives.

Interview: The company behind Invisalign sheds light on tech’s latest in orthodontics

Just as ways of working, socializing and engaging with our communities have changed forever, so too have past norms in the health and dental industry. Of course, none of this would be possible without the access to technology we have today. With path-breaking digital solutions at our fingertips, a whole new world of possibilities are open to us, to transform how we treat patients – both now and in the post-COVID-19 era. In order to leverage these opportunities and continue to reach patients however, dental institutions must embrace web-based dentistry. Simply put, we must all learn to adapt in order to survive. 

Creative digital solutions to the physical barriers imposed on dentists and patients today is what will help us get through this together as a community. And this is not something that is unique to the dental sector. In fact, if there is one thing we have learnt during this crisis, it’s the need to embrace digital transformation as a way forward. As businesses grapple with physical challenges today, it’s becoming increasingly clear that digital-first companies that are able to pivot their business strategies and offerings will have the biggest opportunity to flourish and remain resilient – across all sectors.

Although digitization from a distance poses a new type of learning curve, the dental industry now has the unprecedented opportunity to foster a culture of agility that will stand to us in the years to come. Now, more than ever, is a time for dental and health practitioners to recognize the immense prospect of digital technology to reshape the industry and evolve it for the better.

We are possibly looking at a future where pandemics and epidemics become a part of life and health takes the centre stage. I believe we  have to play our part in preparing people for this new reality. While we can’t be certain of exactly when the world’s recovery will begin, we can be certain of one thing – digitalization holds the key to navigate this new world together, through encouragement and cooperation. In the meantime, we will continue to do everything in our power to continue transforming smiles and changing lives for the better – following local governmental guidelines and keeping safety of our doctors, patients and employees first. 

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