Key Takeaways from the ADHA’s 100th Annual Conference Every DSO Should Know

Misty Mattingly, Sage Dental’s Senior VP/Chief Dental Hygiene Officer, on the key areas covered at the 100th ADHA meeting that impact DSOs and their hygienists at all levels.

The American Dental Hygienists Association (ADHA) recently celebrated its 100th annual conference in Chicago, an event that gathers the nation’s leading hygienists and dental experts for informative keynotes, new product experiences, and a variety of educational sessions and presentations exploring the current trends shaping the future of dental hygiene.

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This year’s centennial celebration kicked off with a heartwarming tribute to ADHA’s late CEO Ann Battrell, followed by a packed program full of conversations around technology, mental health, preventive care, and more. Industry experts provided key insights into the most significant issues impacting hygienists and DSOs from all levels, including clinical and C-Suite.

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Here were the major themes discussed during this year’s conference that every DSO should keep in mind:

1. The Perspective on Mental Health is Shifting

The pandemic created a shift in how dental professionals approach mental and behavioral health within their practices, and this shift is also occurring within the DSO model more broadly. Patient mental health plays a significant role in oral health and vice versa, and due to the oral symptoms that can present with mental illness, we dental professionals are often the first to make that connection when a patient is in our chair. Because of this, looking for warning signs and ways to make patients feel more comfortable has become a core function of patient interactions.

This shift in perspective was clear during ADHA, as a large portion of the agenda focused on a push to approach patients with more empathy and understanding. Implementing techniques such as breathing exercises within your DSO network, for example, can be an effective way to calm patient anxiety during office visits. Educating dental professionals on how to approach and treat patients with substance abuse disorders was also a key focus; training and awareness around how to appropriately connect with patients suffering from these disorders is crucial for DSOs to deliver high-quality patient experiences.

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2. Technology is becoming more predictive and preventive.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been at the forefront of recent healthcare headlines, and the dental industry has been no exception. DSOs are increasingly leveraging AI technology to not only efficiently manage all practices within their network, but also to enhance diagnostic capabilities and accuracy. Chairside AI software such as Pearl’s Second Opinion was a hot topic throughout the conference as dental professionals are increasing their use of the technology to detect pathologies and abnormalities in dental x-rays.

The dental industry has traditionally been centered around reactive care, but as technologies continue to advance, preventive health is becoming key. This was a clear theme present in the newer technologies showcased at this year’s conference. Dentognostics, for example, showcased their ORALyzer chairside aMMP-8 biomarker screening, a device that gives patients an “oral fitness score” in a matter of minutes by testing and analyzing their saliva. A score over 10 indicates a patient is experiencing active tissue destruction. Periodontal disease often remains undetected for quite some time as patients typically don’t show any symptoms or experience pain until it’s too late. This type of fast-acting, informative technology can be instrumental in capturing early signs of disease and in advancing preventive dentistry.

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3. Dentistry is increasing its focus on sustainability.

Patient expectations are evolving, and so are the factors that patients consider when choosing a new dental office. One of these emerging factors is sustainability and the environmental impact of current care delivery methods, products, and treatment solutions. For example, most of the products dental professionals use in today’s environment, such as prophy cups and even toothbrushes, are made of plastic. Leveraging more products made from biodegradable materials such as hemp or bamboo will become an even bigger trend within the industry in the coming years. 

Another way some practices are aiming to advance their sustainability efforts is by implementing teledentisry services. These services can help dental professionals triage from afar and reduce the amount of follow-up appointments that require patients to come into the office, which in turn, can help lower emissions associated with transportation. 

The conversations at ADHA reflect the most prevalent and significant trends currently shaping the dental hygiene industry, and most importantly, the industry’s future. By keeping these key takeaways in mind and weaving them into every core business strategy at all levels of the organization, DSOs can ensure they remain ahead of the game and keep pace with evolving patient expectations.

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About Misty Mattingly


Misty Mattingly, RDH, BSDH, is the Senior Vice President and Chief Dental Hygiene Officer at Sage Dental, one of the first women in the United States to hold this role at a dental service organization. She is responsible for overseeing operations and managing a team of over 150 hygienists across Sage Dental’s almost 100 supported practices. She continues to be a strong advocate for advancing the use of innovative technology in the dental field and expanding access to dental care regardless of socio-economic and geographic barriers. Mattingly currently serves as Vice President of the Georgia Board of Dentistry, where she was elected to a 5-year board term in 2020.

Sage Dental and Sage Dental Management, LLC

Sage Dental Group of Florida, PLLC, and Sage Dental Group of Georgia, PLLC, have provided dental care to over one million patients through its broad practice network, which offers general, specialty, and cosmetic dental care, including restorative, prosthodontic, endodontic, oral surgery, periodontics, pediatric, and orthodontic treatment. Sage Dental participates in most dental plans and offers payment and financing options. Sage Dental Management, LLC, is a leading dental service organization based in Boca Raton, Florida, that provides comprehensive non-clinical business and administrative support services to more than 100 affiliated Sage Dental practices in Florida and Georgia.

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