As we reflect on Irish Dentistry’s 20th anniversary this year, it’s timely to look at how far the industry has come, and think about where we might be in another 20 years. It would be remiss of me not at least to touch on the subject of blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies.

If you know any crypto investors, you probably got bored by their gloating at dinner parties as the dollar price of their holdings jumped astronomically late last year. It’s likely they’ve been quieter since they watched most of those gains drain away again.

The price of a bitcoin shot from $4,000 to $19,000 and back to $6,000 in barely four months, and many alt (alternative) coins saw even more volatility. There seems to be another upward tilt happening at the moment, but no one knows how long it will last or if there is another gut-wrenching drop around the corner. It’s an unregulated market and fraud and hacks are bound to keep happening.

Wild card

But, clearly, it’s a compelling story. Crypto investors are most likely to be in the 18-24 age group and many thousands of them in Europe, the US and Asia have made millions by trading on crypto exchanges. It’s risky but the potential gains eclipse those offered by any other investment opportunity in history.

The wild numbers can be partially explained by what is probably the most interesting thing about cryptos: the confidence they inspire. Money keeps ploughing into alt coins even without proof of concept. Cryptos are not technically currency because they are not backed by any banks. They are not commodities because they haven’t got tangible, real-world value yet. They are not widely accepted, and users are not protected.

Yet real money continues to pour in. It does so because people believe the world will change when people can enter into transactions and contracts independently of banks and governments. The transformative potential on all areas of the world economy has been recognised by global business leaders, including Bill Gates.

Dentacoin

One alt coin that has been making headlines is Dentacoin, tipped as the currency of the future for dentists and their patients. It aims to disrupt the global dental care industry through decentralised review and reward platforms, so that a patient giving feedback receives Dentacoin in return.

It also wants to provide self-education incentives to patients, with an educational website and a mobile app aimed at habit building.

If none of that sounds particularly new or revolutionary, Dentacoin says its value is going to be the big picture stuff. The idea is that stakeholders will have a common interest in adding value to the industry, patients by giving reviews and improving their dental hygiene, and dentists by following best practice, and as they do so the value of their Dentacoin will appreciate.

Even commercial competitors using Dentacoin will have a mutual interest in the good name of the sector, while the Dentacoin community will be shielded from malpractice by non-participants.

Whether or not all that comes to pass, Dentacoin certainly has first mover advantage. If cryptos are still around in 20 years, that has to mean something. So far, 14 dental clinics are accepting Dentacoin and 900 dentists have registered on the review platform.

So, should you invest? Only what you can stand to lose.