Millennial Dentists: Bridge the Generation Gap in your Practice

Posted by Kate Ranta on Jan 29, 2015 12:27:00 PM


As part of America's largest generation--one-third of the population--Millennials are on target to make an enormous cultural and economic impact on the country. With the first wave of Millennials entering their thirties and establishing themselves as professionals, there will be four generations in the workplace. And they will be providing care for six generations!

For Millennial dentists, bridging the generation gap will be crucial to success. Each generation grows up under the influence of events that happen during their formative years. Understanding the "style" and needs of each group will allow you to provide excellent care and service…and grow your patient base. It will also create employee satisfaction, since several generations will be working together.

Let's take a brief look at the generations you may encounter in your practice. This list of 20th-century generations has been proposed by historians William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book, "Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069."


Greatest Generation: Born between 1901-1924, this group is now quite elderly, but also quite proud. You may have some as patients. Characteristics: Personal responsibility, humility, work ethic, financial prudence and commitment. Dental issues: Lack of dental care in childhood and during The Great Depression may have caused chronic problems. Since Medicare does not cover dental care, less than 20 percent of Americans over 75 have dental insurance.

Silent Generation: Born 1925-1942, this cohort was raised during times of Depression and war. Hard workers, struggling to succeed, they kept quiet. Characteristics: Traditional, fatalistic, status-seeking, patriotic and respect for authority. Dental issues: Much like the Greatest Generation, dental care was not readily available. About 25 percent of this group has severe periodontal disease.

Baby Boomers: Born 1942-1960, this generation was raised in front of the television. They also influenced popular music. You will likely have Boomer employees. Characteristics: Hard-working, fulfillment-seeking, direct communicators, adaptive and competitive. Dental issues: The first generation to have access to dental care, Boomers expect to maintain healthy mouths for their entire lives. As Boomers age, dental care will shift accordingly.

Generation X: Born 1961-1981 (and also called the Thirteenth Generation) this group witnessed the Challenger and Jonestown disasters, while living in the shadow of the Boomers. Characteristics: Individualism, skepticism, self-reliance, informality and work-play balance. Dental issues: They will continue to seek dental care and are familiar with insurance. More likely to purchase dental insurance over the Internet than Boomers.

Generation Y (Millennials): Born 1982-2004, the Millennials are optimistic, as well as tech-savvy. They expect flexibility and respect in the workplace. Characteristics: Confident, team-oriented, sheltered, conventional, and achievement-focused. Dental issues: Out of school and employed, but sometimes without insurance options. They may postpone dental care. Over 50 percent will buy dental insurance online rather than from an agent.

Generation Z: Born after 2000, and too young to remember 9/11, this generation has only known political and worldwide conflicts. They already strive to make the world a better, safer place. Characteristics: Although they are still young, traits for this generation may include financial security, global awareness, humanitarianism and complete technology dependence. Dental issues: Children of Generation X, they will likely receive dental care from an early age, including current preventative treatments.

Millennial professionals are ideal healthcare providers. As a dentist, you want to treat each patient as a valuable individual. When you and your staff can tailor your approach for each generation, your patients will feel understood and appreciative. And they will refer their friends and colleagues.

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