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Latest HPI poll looks at patient volume, staff recruitment

Data from poll conducted week of May 17

May 28, 2021

By Jennifer Garvin

Patient volume continues to close in on pre-COVID-19 levels and owner dentists are increasing staff recruitment for dental teams, according to an ADA Health Policy Institute poll conducted the week of May 17.

Nationally, patient volume was at 86% of pre-COVID-19 levels in private practices although HPI found that number varied slightly according to geography and the type of practice. The highest patient volumes were reported by dentists practicing in rural areas (90%), small group practices (88%) and by endodontists (91%).

The May 17 poll results also included data on:

Staff recruitment: Owner dentists are facing challenges in recruiting dental team members. Owners reported increasing their efforts to employ dental team members since October 2020, with 36% currently seeking dental assistants, 29% seeking dental hygienists and 27% recruiting administrative staff. In the new poll, more than 80% of owner dentists who reported they are looking for new staff said they considered the recruitment of dental hygienists and dental assistants to be extremely or very challenging. In the next three months, both urban and rural owners said they expect to hire more staff.

Staff pay: In terms of pay rates, more than two-thirds of owner dentists recruiting dental hygienists, assistants and administrative staff reported that the pay rate has increased for these dental team positions compared to before the pandemic.

Looking ahead: Dentists’ confidence in both their own practices and the dental care sector in general has strengthened since earlier in the year. While 72% of dentists were very or somewhat confident in the recovery of their dental practice in January of this year, that percentage increased to 83% in May. The percentage of dentists very or somewhat confident in the recovery of the dental care sector in general increased from 73% to 82%.

The HPI launched a tracking poll on the economic impact of COVID-19 on dental practices on March 23, 2020, and the poll continues on a monthly basis. More than 1,700 dentists from across the country responded to the May 2021 wave of the poll.