Over dentistry's relatively short history, several changes have been accommodated by the profession. Initially dental decay caused pain which was treated by extraction and eventually the space replaced by dentures. Improvements in science and technology allowed the decayed tooth to be treated by restorations which progressively became more reliable and more sophisticated. Patients' attitudes changed from one of an acceptance of an inevitable edentulous state to one of an expectation of retaining their teeth for life.
During the last twenty' years, the emphasis of dentistry has changed from that of treating the results of dental decay to that of the prevention of decay. Dentists have been so successful in the promotion of preventive dentistry that the need for traditional restorative dentistry in children and teenagers has reduced markedly. As this trend continues, and the youth of today reach adulthood the long-term viability of dentistry as practiced today is in doubt.
This paper examines the role that marketing could play in maintaining profitability of dentistry in Queensland in the future.
The paper analyses, by means of literary review, the provision of dental care in Queensland and the regulations which pertain to marketing activities. A review is also made of the alternative ways in which dentistry is provided in other Australian states and overseas. Dental services are examined from a marketing perspective with emphasis placed on the consumer.
The results of the literary review together with discussions with Queensland dentists on their attitudes to marketing practices, indicate a definite place for a sound marketing plan. An example of such a plan is outlined. This will assist in increasing the use of dental services in the short term and the medium term. In preparing the dental plan, the experience gained by dentists in the successful promotion of preventive dentistry has been highlighted.
For the long-term future of the dental profession, two factors have been identified as requiring further attention. At the moment there is a need for a greater knowledge of the current and potential consumers of dentistry. This knowledge can then be used to give a consumer-orientation (as distinct from a provider-orientation) to dental services and treatments. This is essential for an appropriate marketing plan for the n1ediurn and long term future. The second factor which is required is a less conservative attitude towards the encouragement of discussion of innovative ideas. If the profession is to provide a satisfactory and full career for those who are recent graduates or undergraduates of dentistry, it must start now to look for alternative "products" which the dentist could provide. This can only be achieved in an atmosphere which encourages free discussion of novel ideas.