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Pandemic’s effect on dentists’ net income revealed in new HPI research brief

Female dentists saw bigger decline in net income, hours worked than their male colleagues

September 03, 2021

By David Burger

HPI research brief 

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a 17.9% drop in net income for general dentists in 2020 compared with 2019.

That is just one of the findings from a new research brief from the ADA’s Health Policy Institute that explores the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the net income of dentists.

“By all these accounts, dentistry has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic remarkably well,” wrote Marko Vujicic, Ph.D., chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute, along with fellow researchers Bradley Munson, Brittany Harrison and Rachel Morrissey in the brief, titled “How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Dentist Earnings?”

The researchers outlined the questions the HPI sought to answer in its brief, published Sept. 2.

“But what about the financial impact to dental practices?” the researchers wrote. “To date, there has been no ‘big picture’ look at the financial impact to dentists.”

In this research brief, HPI researchers focused on dentist net income and presented the first nationally representative analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, they compared dentist net incomes for the year 2020 with the previous year.

“Trends in hours worked shed light on why there are differing effects on net income of dentists by specialty, age, and gender,” the researchers wrote. “In terms of total hours worked in the year, general practitioners worked 285 fewer hours in 2020, or 16.6% less, compared to 2019. For specialist dentists, the decline was 11.7%. The magnitude of the decline in hours worked and net income are very similar, suggesting that earnings declined because dentists worked fewer hours.”

The data also showed patterns in hours worked by age and gender for general practitioners, but not specialist dentists.

“For hours worked, the same patterns emerge when it comes to differences by age and gender. Female general practitioners saw a much bigger decline in hours worked (22.1%), compared to male general practitioners (14.5%). Older dentists saw the largest decline in hours worked (21%) while younger general practitioners saw the smallest (13.2%).”

With female dentists seeing a much bigger decline in net income and hours worked than their male colleagues, the brief’s findings add to the growing evidence that the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to affect women very differently from men, said the researchers.

Also in the report is information on how much dentists received in government relief — about $95,000 on average.