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HPI poll suggests economic activity in dental offices at steady state

August 18, 2020

By Matt Carey

The economic recovery of dental offices is seemingly in a steady state, with 98% of dental offices open and patient volume at 73% of pre-COVID-19 levels, according to data from the ADA Health Policy Institute impact of COVID-19 poll for the week of Aug. 10. These numbers are largely unchanged from the previous wave of HPI polling.

In this wave of the poll, dentists were asked about their usage of hospitals and surgery centers. Among the 7% of dentists who indicated they do schedule cases for dental treatment under general anesthesia in a hospital and/or a surgery center, COVID-19 has led to more limited hospital/surgery center availability for dental cases, due mainly to the “surge” the pandemic has brought to hospitals, according to the results. Half of those respondents said cases are being scheduled the same as before, while 42% said cases are scheduled on a more limited basis and 8% said cases are not being scheduled at all.

The latest polling also indicates that the pandemic could potentially lead to reductions in dental safety net capacity. About 6% of Medicaid providers (in private practices) have dis-enrolled since the start of the pandemic and about 22% intend to dis-enroll by the end of the year.           

HPI has also been monitoring consumer opinions pertaining to visiting the dentists. The latest consumer polling indicates that about three out of four people who visited the dentist last year are comfortable visiting the dentist right now. Another 11% would be willing to go if they had some assurances that it is safe, and the remaining 15% are waiting for a vaccine or proven treatment for COVID-19. Accordingly, patient volume in dental offices likely has an upper bound of around 85% of pre-COVID-19 levels for now.  

Complete results comparing results for the 11 waves, including results broken down by practice size, dental service organization status and at the state level, is available at: https://bit.ly/3avHc5A

Marko Vujicic, HPI’s vice president and the ADA’s chief economist, recorded a presentation of the latest results, which is available on YouTube. All previous webinars are available on the ADA YouTube channel. Subscribe to receive information on new videos as they are released.