Dental Practices See Slight Uptick in 2021

Dentistry Today
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Dental practices are seeing a second rebound in the early days of 2021, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) January 18 biweekly poll. However, PPE supplies remain challenging for many practices. Plus, dental practices are taking a variety of actions to maintain their financial sustainability.  

During the week of January 18, 42.6% of dental practices were open with business as usual, with 56.2% open but with lower patient volume than usual. That’s an improvement over the previous poll of the week of December 14, which saw 38.5% open with business as usual and 60.3% open but with lower patient volume than usual.

Total patient volumes saw an uptick in the new year as well. During the week of January 18, 20.6% reported seeing more than 95% of their typical pre-pandemic volumes, and 31.4% reported between 86% and 95%. During the week of December 14, only 18.9% saw more than 95% of their pre-pandemic volume, and 30.0% reported between 86% and 95%.

Collections are improving too. In the January 18 poll, 19.2% of practices said they were receiving more than 95% of their pre-pandemic totals, with 30.8% seeing between 86% and 95%. The December 14 totals included 17.5% reporting more than 95% and 26.6% reporting between 86% and 95% of their pre-pandemic collections.

Payrolls inched upward as well. During the week of January 18, 94.2% of practices said they were fully paying their staff, exceeding December 14’s 93.8% figure. Also, 79.1% of non-owner dentists said that they were fully paid for the week of January 18, while only 74.9% said the same for the week of December 14.

The poll also asked practices about their PPE supplies, with 63.2% saying they had more than 14 days’ worth of N95 and KN95 masks; 71.9% said they had more than 14 days of surgical masks; 76.2% said they had more than 14 days of face shields; 63.7% said they had more than 14 days of gowns; 63.0% said they had more than 14 days of disinfecting supplies; and 56.1% said they had more than 14 days of gloves.

Unfortunately, dentists in 28 states reported that they had zero days’ worth of N95 or KN95 masks. Similarly, dentists in 14 states said they had zero days’ worth of surgical masks; dentists in 24 states had zero days’ worth of face shields; dentists in 27 states said they had zero days’ worth of gowns; dentists in seven states had zero days’ worth of disinfecting supplies; and dentists in 11 states had zero days’ worth of gloves.

And to maintain financial sustainability, in the past month, 9.1% of practices have downsized their dental team; 17.8% have reduced dental team hours; 2.9% have reduced wages and benefits; 7.7% have disenrolled from dental benefits plans; 17.3% have changed materials suppliers or labs; 32.0% raising fees; 19.5% borrowing money from a bank; 1.3% selling their practices; 0.7% joining a DSO or large group practice; and 0.8% retiring.

Federal help is available as well through the second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, with 21% of practices reporting that they have already applied for one; 38% in the process of applying or planning on applying before the deadline; 21% not interested in applying; and 20% that are undecided.

Dentists also remain optimistic about the future, with 29.6% very confident and 41.8% somewhat optimistic about their practice’s recovery. Similarly, 27.0% are very confident and 49.5% are somewhat confident about the recovery of the dental care sector in general.

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