How dentists can connect with Gen-Z

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Growing patients and changing expectations: Meeting the challenge with digital transformation

Growing patients and changing expectations: Meeting the challenge with digital transformation. (Image: Shutterstock / Vink Fan)
Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Tue. 11 July 2023


Dr. Guy Deeming and Dr. Simonetta Meuli detail how they approach younger patients, the technology they rely on and why treating them is entirely different from treating adults.

Setting the scene for his view on the importance of a digital workflow, Dr. Deeming explains there’s now a big gap between teenagers and middle-aged adults. He stresses that Generation Z – those born between 1997 and mid-2000s and Generation Alpha – youngsters born after 2012 are a “visual demographic”, adding: “They want everything on-demand and they want it to adapt to their needs in a very dynamic fashion, and we, as orthodontists and as service providers must try to find a way to embed that visual, on-demand element into their experiences. Being a digitally adept and dynamic organisation that can evolve and recognise the need to change is absolutely essential if we are going to future-proof ourselves for the needs of Generation Alpha and beyond.”

Dr Guy Deeming

This includes using social media to reach younger patients, because they look to their contemporaries on social platforms for advice and reviews.

“Half of Gen Z use YouTube to search for opinions and information before they make a purchasing decision. And 40% use TikTok and Instagram in a similar way. Our practices are now on TikTok. 90% of traffic is coming from mobile phones, with a massive skew towards that younger generation. So, if your services are not accessible via a mobile device in an instant – in that on-demand fashion, you are going to be missing all the opportunities to serve that younger and growing community,” says Dr. Deeming.

Technology, he points out, not only offers treatment in a form that suits younger patients, it also offers them the all-important customer experience. “That’s about virtual care. It’s about using the different technologies to engage the patients throughout the treatment, monitor their progress with you so they can see how their teeth are moving, so they feel involved and feel like their treatment will be more successful.”

In terms of specific technologies, Dr. Deeming highlights Invisalign Smile View™ which allows patients to generate their own virtual smile improvements via a selfie. “A tool that builds that hope, excitement and engagement with the process so that the patient can then take that next step.”

“Using technology in front of our patients helps them to feel like we’re part of their world. The next part of that is the Invisalign® Outcome Simulator Pro. Once we have our scans, we can then demonstrate how our skills come into play by modifying that simulation in real time on the iTero scanner to show them the tweaks and the artistry of orthodontic tooth movement, to create that excitement.”

And Invisalign® Virtual Care allows for effective, efficient interaction throughout the treatment journey: “Because teenagers don’t want to be inconvenienced", Dr Deeming says. "We can give them that always-on feeling through the app, and we can give our younger patients control over their treatment, through the ability to share and communicate and have interaction directly with your team without always having to go through their parents. Align is now making it so much easier for us to engage our patients in the way they want to be engaged.”

Interceptive orthodontics with Invisalign First

Dr. Simonetta Meuli, explains that she relies heavily on digital tools to support her consultancy work, particularly the iTero Element™ 5D Plus Mobile imaging system, whose Cloud capabilities allows her to work in a more flexible way, even when travelling. Even more important for younger children, a scan is pain-free.

She favours using interceptive orthodontics incorporating Invisalign First™, which she says has advantages, such as reducing the incidence of pre-molar extractions, orthognathic surgery and root reabsorption, while also increasing the long-term stability of the alignment of the lower incisors. She also stresses that interceptive orthodontics made it unnecessary to solve every issue immediately, but instead recommended a concise focus using the digital planning workflow, to plan simple procedures, beginning with the upper arch.

Dr.Meuli uses iTero NIRI technology to detect interproximal cavities and the iTero scanner’s SnapShot feature to help patient communication and acceptance of treatment. Echoing Dr. Deeming’s views on how teens are the ‘visual’ generation, she adds: “Communication through images has become an important language that can influence people’s minds – transmitting strong emotions. They are also one of the most powerful means of virtual story-telling.”

Dr Meuli also highlights the importance of planning using ClinCheck® Pro when embarking on an Invisalign First treatment to enable informed decisions, which she says is particularly relevant for early orthodontic treatment in mixed dentition.

She is also an advocate of monitoring patient progress and underlined what she sees as a responsibility to keep track of young patients’ cases over extended periods as they grow. In conclusion, she said that all patients respond positively to the digital environment, and children in particular, who accept it as “the norm”.

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