State of the Dental Profession
The ADA is here to help you understand the changing landscape of the dental profession and know what to expect as you prepare for graduation and begin your practice life.
Here you’ll find an overview of everything presented at the ADA Success program, as well as links to further resources.
Didn’t attend an ADA Success program at your school? Learn more about ADA Success or request a program by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Choosing a Career Path
Dental students graduate with about $250,000 in student debt on average. And many new graduates report significantly greater student loan debt than the average. Dentists are not alone. ADA research shows that high debt-to-income ratios are hitting a number of professions. Dentistry is fourth—behind veterinary medicine, optometry, and pharmacy. See chart below.
What other impact could debt have on career choices? ADA research shows:
- Dentists with higher debt are more likely to enter private practice and work longer hours.
- Dentists with higher debt are less likely to specialize.
- ADA research found that characteristics such as sex and race play a critical role in influencing career choices, more so than high debt levels.
- Debt payback length is rising, an important trend given that dentists’ earning appear to be stagnating. More recent grads are paying a slightly smaller percentage of their initial balance per year than the earlier cohorts.
The average annual net income among dentists began declining prior to the great recession and has yet to recover. However, dentist incomes are notably higher than the mean U.S. Household income, which has not reached the figures it was at in 2000.
Tips for making the most of the current environment:
- Employment Contract Resources. Before you sign an employment contract, review it closely, preferably with an attorney. The ADA Success Program Understanding Employment Agreements walks you through what to expect. And there’s a free resource on ADA.org as well.
- Consider refinancing your student loans. While this won’t increase your income per se, it can put you in a better financial position and save you money. The ADA has endorsed Laurel Road, where ADA members receive a 0.25% rate discount.
- Carefully review your insurance provider contracts. Once you’ve SIGNED—and you’ve agreed to the reimbursement rates/conditions outlined, it’s VERY difficult to change those terms. The ADA Contract Analysis Service (“CAS”) will provide you with information concerning proposed contracts so you can better understand and analyze its terms. CAS analyzes:
- Dental provider contracts with third party payers.
- Dental management service organization contracts.
- Contracts that offer dental school students scholarships or loans in exchange for a commitment for future employment.
- Receiving a clear, concise explanation of the terms of a provider contract may help you decide if participating with such a plan is best for you and your patients, as well as helping you avoid unpleasant surprises under the contract in the future.
Dental Utilization Trends
Who is going to the dentist?
No matter which dental career path you take, as a soon to be new dentist, it’s important for you to know about dental utilization trends. So who is going to the dentist? At the macro level, the trends are continuing to show that utilization for children is going up while adult utilization is decreasing.
Barriers to seeing a Dentist
Why aren’t people going to the dentist? What are the perceptions and barriers?
As you can see, cost is the number one reason why people do not go to the dentist. Fear of the dentist and inconvenience round out the top three reasons. Other reasons include trouble finding a dentist, absence of original teeth, and no perceived need by potential patients.
The ADA is working on a number of initiatives to increase the number of people who go to the dentist, including a new communications campaign coming soon entitled “See your ADA dentist” that will reach members and the public. Consumer personas are also in development which will help dentists decided what type of patients they currently attract, and then customize marketing efforts to target additional potential patients.
Utilization among children with Medicaid/CHIP dental benefits has been going up. We may see this trend for adults as well due to the Medicaid expansion.
What is the ADA doing?
Visit the Action for Dental Health area for more information. To learn about what is going on in your state, check out the State Fact Sheets from the Health Policy Institute
More Practice Consolidation
This chart shows you that the number of large group practices is increasing. The orange line is firms that have 100 to 499 employees, and the yellow line is firms that have 500 or more employees.
From 1992 to 2012, the percentage of dental office employees employed by very small dental offices decreased from 89.3 percent to 80.7 percent.
More Interprofessional Communication
There are significant opportunities for physicians and dentists to work together to ensure patients are receiving whole-body care. In fact, we estimate that under certain collaborative arrangements physicians could help refer up to 50 new patients per dentist. Among the people who did not visit a dentist, over 19 million have dental insurance!
More Data Driven Decision Making
Data is everywhere. You can use data to help you in your practice life. The Center for Professional Success is developing a new benchmarking resource. When you put information in about your own practice, you’ll be able to participate and see what others across the country are doing. You can use this to make decisions on your own practice. There are other resources in development as well. And the Health Policy Institute will continue to watch and interpret the trends, communicating information in a meaningful way for you to use. There is more to come!
For more information on trends in dentistry, visit the Health Policy Institute.
Watch these videos to see examples of trends in dentistry
5 Trends in the Dental Care Market
5 Future Forces Reshaping the Practice Environment
3 New Opportunities
ADA and ASDA Student Membership - Most dental students are members of the ADA and ASDA. You join both organizations at the same time. Members receive special benefits and resources to support you during school and help you prepare for your dental career. Learn more about your ADA student membership. You can find information on ASDA at ASDAnet.org.
Stay in touch with the ADA after graduation. Contact us at email@example.com or complete the Member Profile.
ADA Membership After Graduation - After graduation, you can continue your membership with the ADA. The first year is free and most state and local societies also offer reduced dues. If you’re going into a residency, you receive a special student rate and then pick up the free year after your program. Get on your feet and connect with your professional association to help you get there. Learn more.