Dear DrBicuspid Member,
This has been a week in dentistry when many dental professionals have taken a victory lap over the demise of SmileDirectClub. For many dentists, the metaphorical “dancing on the grave” of SDC this week has been viewed as a victory over a company that tried to cut them out of the important process of meeting the orthodontic and oral health needs of their patients. It’s one of the reasons why the ADA issued a statement earlier this week reaffirming “its policy which strongly opposes offers of direct-to-consumer dentistry because of the potential for irreversible harm to individuals, who are treated as ‘customers’ rather than as patients.”
SmileDirectClub’s demise is understandably a moment for the dental industry to bang the collective drum to remind consumers of the importance of oral healthcare professionals. However, that doesn’t mean that SDC’s sudden departure (and the thousands of patients left in a lurch because of it) should be overlooked amid any celebration. There are now patients who are angry, confused, and shaking their fists at dentistry for leaving them in the middle of treatment and negating a lifetime guarantee. Sure, it was SDC’s vanishing act that caused it all to happen. But for the dental patient, there is little difference between SDC and the dental industry as a whole.
This is a time when dentistry (not just the ADA but all of us together) needs to put our collective best public relations face forward and remind patients that we always have their best interests in mind. Money doesn’t come first, but rather, optimal oral health is always the goal within a dental practice above financial gains.
Now is the time when we should be discussing the oral-systemic link. Now is the time when we should be reaching out to patients about the looks and health of their smiles. They are calling us every day to be seen before their insurance benefits run out for the year, but how are we ensuring that we are viewed as an industry and not just a commodity and “cleaning” service?
Dentistry was viewed as a “nonessential” business during the COVID-19 pandemic. We missed the ball then in telling patients why coming into the dental practice was important. We can’t miss the opportunity again now and simply dance on SDC’s grave. We must do more by ensuring that patients understand we are allies in their oral health and are not only here to make a buck.
Outside of SDC, there were other stories I want to make sure you saw this week, ranging from what to do with your dental unit waterlines if you’re closing for the holidays to how the Black Death is still impacting our oral health today. If you’re up for a podcast, make sure you check out this expert’s advice on what dental practices need to know about social media in 2024. Finally, we would love your help with one-question surveys on firing patients and your top worries heading into the new year.
Thank you for what each of you do every day in your practice to help people live better lives. Here’s to that message being heard loud and clear around the world in 2024.
Editor in Chief