Patient volume in dental practices is estimated at 76% of pre-COVID-19 levels, representing a slight decline over the past couple of months, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute’s latest data from its COVID-19 economic impact tracking poll conducted the week of Nov. 16.
The poll found staffing in dental offices was at 90% of pre-pandemic levels and one-third of dental practices reported “business as usual” in terms of patient volume.
These poll results and other findings were shared in a short webinar available on YouTube, which covered issues related to patient capacity, measures taken for financial sustainability, future financial sustainability considerations and consumer sentiment.
The Nov. 16 poll found:
• Nearly all practices have the capacity to see more patients than they are currently seeing. More than one-third report being at 51-75% of their current maximum patient capacity, with fewer than one in 10 operating at greater than 95% of their current maximum patient capacity. Large group practices are closer to their current maximum patient capacity.
• Dentists have taken various measures to maintain the financial sustainability of their practice, similar to findings represented in September. DSO-affiliated practices have been more likely to downsize the dental team, while practices not affiliated with a DSO have been more likely to raise fees or borrow from a bank.
• If a patient volume remains what it was the week of Nov. 16 through the end of the year, dentists are likely to raise fees. Among dentists 65 and older, more than one-third indicated they would consider selling their practice and roughly 40% would consider retiring.
• Development of a vaccine remains an important part of bringing the remaining patient base back in to the dental office.
HPI launched its COVID-19 economic impact tracking poll on March 23. Dentists were also asked to join a panel in which the complete a biweekly poll. In this latest wave, a nationally representative sample of nearly 2,500 dentists responded.
Webinars on previous data are available on the ADA YouTube channel.
Links to reports and an interactive data dashboard is available at ADA.org/HPI.