The American Dental Association (ADA) has released a comprehensive, groundbreaking analysis of the dental care sector in a report titled, “A Profession in Transition: Key Forces Reshaping the Dental Landscape.” The report summarizes important findings of an environmental scan carried out by the ADA as part of the ADA’s 2015-20 Strategic Plan development process.

This forward-looking analysis of the dental landscape is the first of its kind from the ADA. According to the report, this is a critical moment for dentistry—a time for the profession to define its future vision.

“Given the significant environmental changes on the horizon, including expected changes in the dental care delivery system, this analysis shows that the dental profession must prepare by shaping a proactive strategy to navigate the challenges and opportunities ahead,” said Robert A. Faiella, DMD, ADA president.

Some of the key findings of the report include:

  • While more children have been visiting the dentist, primarily due to the expansion of public insurance programs, dental care use has declined among working age adults, particularly the young and poor, a trend that emerged prior to the recent economic downturn. Dental benefits coverage for adults has steadily eroded in the past decade.
  • Total dental spending in the United States slowed considerably in the early 2000s and has been flat since 2008. This trend is expected to continue, resulting in dentists looking for more efficient ways to serve their patients, as well as a likely increase in consolidating dental practices.
  • The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is expected to expand children’s dental benefits, both public and private, but it does not address the many key access to care issues facing adults.
  • The ACA is also expected to promote increased coordination of care, providing an opportunity to bridge the gap between dental and general health.

The ADA’s Health Policy Resources Center, with oversight from the Strategic Planning Steering Committee of the Board of Trustees, managed the execution of the environmental scan, using a combination of internal researchers and external consultants to complete the analyses. The environmental scan team commissioned external studies from consulting firm Diringer and Associates, and obtained insights and analyses from a group of renowned thought leaders with diverse background and perspectives.

The ADA is communicating the scan’s findings via a full report, executive summary, and video as well as Diringer and Associates’ full report and executive summary. In addition, the ADA also plans to offer a webinar in the next few weeks and presentations to interested groups upon request.