The global COVID pandemic has had some interesting effects on the dental industry in Australia.
And some fascinating side effects and also some distinctive knock-on effects.
Firstly, community lockdowns and city lockdowns and state lockdowns have interrupted what used to be a regular supply chain of dental services in the community.
Under lockdown, in Australia, the provision of supposedly NON URGENT DENTAL SERVICES has needed to be postponed [despite the fact that in the USA dental treatment has been allowed to continue, because the Americans believe that the wilful delaying of dental treatment is permitting and causing the propagating of unnecessary and unjustified pathological damage and tissue loss].
In Australia, when dental treatment is mandated to cease [and then resume], what that does is create periods of drought and then flood in the supply chain of dental services.
There is nothing. And then there is everything.
There is lack of supply. And then there is over-supply.
Dentists have said to me that when restrictions on practicing are lifted after a lockdown, there is an oversupply of patients seeking treatment.
And that seems logical, because diagnosed treatment does not heal itself during lockdown
Diagnosed treatment still needs to be done once restrictions are lifted. It never goes away on its own.
It still needs to be performed.
And so there is an excess supply of patients needing treatment.
Adding to this…
Adding to this is the “situation” that Australians are not travelling, due to overseas travel restrictions that have been put into place.
What we are seeing is that instead of the “Let’s Fly to Bali for my 50th” vacation/birthday celebration, fifty-year-olds are now celebrating their birthdays with a new glamorous Hollywood-style set of crowns and veneers.
As a present unto themselves.
And this trend of spending will continue so long as there are consumers out there who will always exhibit that “I’ll have what she’s having” attitude.
During this pandemic, a lot of businesses have needed to deploy a work-from-home situation for their employees in order to function, and just survive, even at a lower level.
This has resulted in a lot of employees outsourcing their 9-5 requirements during regular office hours back into their local communities, rather than getting those specific activities completed near where their work office is. As a result of this, a lot of “work from home” employees have been getting their dentistry done closer to home.
Suburban practices have been very busy.
As the flood recedes…
As the vaccine gets rolled out and as we as a country take control again and begin to return to some form of new normal, so too do we see that demand for dental services starts to re-settle back to pre-pandemic times.
People will return back to those tall city buildings for work.
And dentistry will return to what it used to be.
What we are seeing now
What we are seeing now is that dentists who were very over-booked and booked weeks in advance are now starting to not be so over-booked.
And cancellations and reschedules and spaces and gaps in the appointment books are starting to be noticed more and more.
What I think has happened is this:
During the times of high demands, there were still cancellations and reschedules coming in, but because of the long waiting times and patients being booked so far in advance, dental practices knew that they could easily fill those cancellations.
And so their ability and skill at preventing and cancelling the cancellations was not needed so much.
After all, the demand was there from all those patients on their “stand-by list”…
And so this necessary skill of preventing cancellations has not been needed.
Now what we are seeing is the list of incomplete treatment plans in our dental practice has grown.
Re-activation of all those patients with incomplete treatment that have been “allowed” to cancel is now needed.
And who loves doing reactivation calls?
Not many people…
And that’s where the new problem is arising…
As health care practitioners we have a duty to our clients to make sure that they have all their necessary and diagnosed dentistry completed.
It is our duty to them to ensure they have a healthy mouth, free from disease.
And just because we’re busy at our practices doesn’t mean that we can allow our patients to delay the completion of this necessary treatment.
In the short term, the dental practices that have maintained their front office phone standards with respect to handling cancellations will be streets ahead in bookings and scheduling, compared to those practices that have “coasted” through this period of excess supply.
And in the long term, those dental practices that have maintained their front office phone standards with respect to handling cancellations will be streets ahead in bookings and scheduling as well.
There is no excuse for dropping our standards.
And there are consequences for doing that. For dropping standards. And for taking our eyes off the ball.
When our dental practice gets slack about allowing cancellations, and start allowing any name to be put into the schedule to fill the gap that may not be someone requiring “ideal treatment”, then that’s when things start to unravel.
Big cases cancel, and “anybody” gets slotted in.
And incomplete complex treatment plans become our outstanding treatment, and are replaced by “rats and mice” style dental appointments….
And that’s not productive.
And it’s not a sustainable model….
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