Dentistry’s Recovery May Be Cooling Off

Dentistry Today


Though patient volume has reached 70% of pre-pandemic levels, dentistry’s rebound may be slowing down, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) June 29 poll of 4,371 dentists on COVID-19’s impact on the profession.

Patient volume continues to increase in the 27 states that have been open for elective care for at least nine weeks, the HPI said, but at much lower rates than previous weeks. Dental sector employment is about 90% of pre-pandemic levels as well.

Rehiring of employee dentists continues to fall behind the pace of other dental staff rehiring though, the HPI said. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that June dental office employment was at 90% of pre-pandemic levels, in line with HPI data.

“It is unclear how much of an issue the reduced maximum patient capacity in dental offices is for dentists,” said Mark Vujicic, HPI chief economist and vice president. “Evidence suggests dentists were ‘not bust enough’ and could see more patients before COVID-19.”

Very few dental practices have extended their hours as a result of the pandemic, the HPI said.

“Taken together, the data suggests the dental care rebound is slowing and we might soon be approaching a plateau in terms of patient volume. The evidence suggests that capacity constrains in dental offices might be just as important as demand-side factors in limiting patient volume,” said Vujicic.

The June 29 poll also found that:

  • 41.7% of practices were open with business as usual, but 55.5% were open with less patient volume than usual.
  • 53.6% of practices saw patient volume of 76% or more of typical volume, 26.4% saw between 51% and 75% of total patient volume, and 10.5% saw between 11% and 24% of patient volume.
  • 40.9% saw 76% or more of total typical collections, 30.8% saw between 51% and 75% of collections, and 16.4% saw between 11% and 24% of collections.
  • 87.3% were fully paying their staff, while 10.3% were partially paying their staff.
  • 64.8% of non-owner dentists were fully paid, 27.8% were partially paid, and 7.4% weren’t paid at all.
  • 68% of practices are open the same number of hours as before, 16% are open for fewer hours, and 16% are open for more hours.

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