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Generation Alpha: Treating the patients of the future

By Markus Sebastian, Executive Vice President & Managing Director EMEA at Align Technology

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Generation Alpha is the name for the newest generation of future consumers, those born from 2010 onwards. While growing up in a fully digital world, they rely on technology for better opportunities and experiences.

And as healthcare and dental practitioners begin to treat this tech-driven generation, they will of course need to consider the personalised and seamless digital experiences Generation Alpha have come to expect.

While they are the youngest generation, Generation Alpha holds brand influence and purchasing power beyond their years, along with access to more technology, information, and external influences than any generation before them.

To better serve existing patients and effectively engage with this new generation, dental practitioners should redefine the patient experience by accelerating the adoption of digital technologies and processes.

This would allow them to enhance offerings within their practice in a way that blends technology with comprehensive care and support.

Generation Alpha consumers expect customised products and experiences that use technology, adapt to their changing needs, and are available at speed.

Digital dentistry is not just a buzzword

In dentistry, using advanced solutions such as digital workflows, computer-aided design, and computer-aided milling (CAD/CAM software) delivers quantifiable benefits for dentists and labs, and – ultimately to patients.

Not only do these digital technologies allow dental practices to remain competitive, but they also provide a better patient experience that can ensure a more predictable and faster overall result.

Whether it’s reducing treatment times, increasing quality of care, or automating manual tasks, digital workflows enable dentists to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to further enhance patient engagement.

Creating an authentic experience is key to engaging with Generation Alpha, who expect speed, responsiveness, and personalisation as standard.

That’s why focusing on a hybrid model – in which physical consultations are complemented by online tools, but still under professional supervision – will help win the attention of this emerging consumer group, as trust and authenticity will factor into future purchasing and treatment decisions.

Technology is an important part of appealing to this younger demographic of patients, and here are some of the ways that digital is already being incorporated into the planning and treatment stages:

Artificial intelligence-based treatment planning:

Using readily available patient data, doctors are already using software to gather detailed clinical decision-making information.

These programmes integrate artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to enable dentists and orthodontists to provide the best care for their patients and make the treatment outcomes more predictable under doctor`s supervision.

Align is one of the leaders in using AI to improve patient care and treatment experiences. For example, our Invisalign SmileView uses multiple AI techniques to allow patients to easily visualise their new smile using the Invisalign clear aligner system.

Computer-assisted design and 3D-printing:

Using CAD/CAM software, dentists and orthodontists can scan teeth and produce an image that highlights where restoration is recommended.

With intraoral scanners, patients are also seeing enhancements to their treatment experience and are able to visualise tooth wear, movements and the final result.

Intraoral scanners such as the iTero intraoral scanners create 3D visualisations that can be used for Invisalign treatment planning and restorative procedures.

This unique technology can effortlessly take images, providing a painless way for the dentist to gather clear and detailed imagery.

Enhanced patient safety:

The pandemic made clinics and dental labs reinforce safety for their patients, encouraging many healthcare and dental practitioners to introduce digital technologies to further reduce any risk of infection.

The adoption of CAD/CAM software and 3D printing offers a way to reduce human interaction as needed and simplifies the process of sending digital impressions.

Despite Covid-19, the European digital dentistry market is expected to reach €1.4 billion by 2027.

Authentic connections through digital media:

Different generations want different experiences from their healthcare providers.

Increasingly for Generation Alpha, this means fast-paced treatment options that reflect their lifestyle and the ability to access treatment updates and schedule appointments online.

Social media’s popularity among Generation Alpha will have an enormous impact on future consumers’ interests, expectations and ultimately what will make them tick.

It’s also important to interact with patients across social media platforms and apps such as TikTok, SnapChat, Instagram and YouTube to increase awareness.

In fact, 90 per cent of surveyed patients agreed that the My Invisalign app has helped them stay on track during their Invisalign treatment.

A solid digital and online presence will play a significant part in appealing to this patient age group and investing ahead of time will help to meet their expectations.

The future of patient care is undeniably digital. When harnessed in the right ways, technology can provide a seamless experience and a workflow that integrates and connects all users, from doctors to dental labs and patients.

Digital technology can empower patients, altering their overall experience and arming them with more information that gives them greater control over decisions about their treatment.

Ultimately, to attract and retain them and entice this new generation of consumers, dental practitioners need to start adapting their practices and embrace digital technology. It takes time to optimise processes, identify the right technologies and educate patients.

With many members of Generation Alpha about to begin orthodontic treatment, there is no better time than now to choose digital dentistry solutions.

Aligntech.com

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