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What do you think of the economy?

Revamped ADA survey asks dentists about their confidence in the market today and in the future

June 18, 2012

By Kelly Soderlund, ADA News staff

The ADA Health Policy Resources Center changed the way it surveys dentists about the economy and says the new format creates a more accurate picture of dentists’ confidence now and in the future.


The first results from the revamped Dentists’ Economic Confidence Survey, which are from the second quarter of this year, were released in May. Nearly 1,700 dentists completed the survey between April 6-19.

“The new format is in the survey style that is used in most studies of consumer or manufacturer confidence,” said Dr. Jeffrey Cole, member of the Council on Dental Practice’s Subcommittee on Economic Issues. “Before, our study asked members to comment on their experience compared to last quarter. This made it more difficult to see what changes were a result of the economy or economic trends and what changes were due to the cyclic nature of our business. Now the respondents are asked how they feel today and how they feel about the near future, as opposed to focusing on the past.”

Based on survey results, the HPRC created two indices of economic confidence on a scale from -100 to 100. The index scores reflected an overall picture of dentists’ confidence in net income, gross billings, open appointment times and treatment acceptance rates, both today and six months from now. A score of 100 would be achieved if no negative responses were received, while a score of -100 would be the result of no positive responses.

In the second quarter, the index score for April was 0, meaning dentists’ confidence is around neutral. The index score for six months from now was -14.

Dentists were the most pessimistic about their net income today than other areas measured by the survey, with nearly 39 percent reporting a negative feeling. When asked to look out six months, dentists were the most negative about treatment acceptance rates. Nearly half of those who responded had negative feelings about treatment acceptance rates.

The majority of dentists surveyed don’t have any plans to hire additional dentists or other staff for their practice in the next year.

CDP has made economic issues one of its main focuses this year. CDP is presenting a forum at Annual Session in San Francisco titled Has the Economic Downturn Changed Dentistry Forever? It’s scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Oct. 18. There is no fee for the course and it is worth 2.5 hours of continuing education credit. Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., managing vice president of the HPRC, will be among the panel members, and the course will be moderated by a CDP member.

The council continues to look at the economy in a broad manner. Efficiencies in practice, tips and advice on running the business side of dental practices can be found on the council’s Dental Practice Hub, . Emerging models of practice, such as the increasing trend toward group practice, is also being studied by the council.

“CDP’s focus is more on how economics are affecting dental practice in an effort to provide the membership with more information on how to make their practices more efficient and successful,” Dr. Cole said. “This will allow the council to focus on what the membership is telling us at the ADA is most important to them. We are building the value of membership by helping members build the success of their practices.”