Thursday, August 17, 2023

ADA Survey Finds that Due to Rising Expenses, Income of General Dentists has *Declined*


Dentistry has dealt with quite a few problems since the pandemic.  Obviously the closing of offices for all but emergency treatment was a huge problem for practice revenues, but even since offices reopened in late spring-early summer of 2020, things have not rebounded as most dentists and most economists had anticipated.

Many offices have seen the number of appointments made continue to be lower than 2019 with offices noticing openings in their schedule that were uncommon previously.

Then there are staff expenses.  After the shutdown of 2020, many employees decided not to return to the dental field.  The last three years have seen a significant decrease in the number of dental hygienists looking for employment.  However, e3very position in the typical office is seeing shortages.  To provide a quick summation, the number of people seeking work or wanting to work in the field of dentistry dropped significantly and has not returned.  That means doctors are either trying to get by with less help (which is difficult) or paying higher salaries which limits the profitability of the office.

And make no mistake, this is NOT simply about dentists not taking home as much money.  An across the board drop in practice revenues translates to less money to give to existing employees, less money to spend on supplies, and less money available to invest in new technologies that lead to state of the art care.  In the short term, something like this could be blip on a statistical curve.  The danger is that it becomes indicative of a long term trend.  If a trend develops, that can impact every person involved with an office... including the patients. 

A recent survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) found that the average net income of general dentists in private practice declined by 7% in 2022. This is the first time that general dentist income has declined in over a decade.

The survey found that the decline in income was due to a number of factors, including:

Increasing practice expenses: Practice expenses, such as rent, salaries, and insurance, have increased at a faster rate than practice revenues in recent years.

Rising competition: The dental market has become increasingly competitive in recent years, with more dentists competing for a smaller pool of patients.

Changes in insurance reimbursement: Insurance reimbursement rates have declined in recent years, making it more difficult for dentists to cover their costs.

The decline in general dentist income is a concerning trend, as it could make it more difficult for dentists to provide quality care to their patients. The ADA is working to address the issue of declining income, and has developed a number of resources to help dentists manage their expenses and increase their revenues.  This is just one reason why I feel it is important to support organized dentistry.  The ADA has the resources to help analyze these situations and provide guidance.  Of course, declining revenues will also begin to impact whether a doctor has the money in the budget for annual dues to organizations.

Here are some tips for general dentists who are looking to improve their income:

Increase your efficiency: There are a number of ways to increase your efficiency in the dental office, such as using digital technology and streamlining your workflows.

Focus on preventive care: Preventive care is a high-value service that can help you improve your income and patient satisfaction.

Market your practice effectively: Make sure your practice is visible to potential patients through online and offline marketing.

Team up with other dentists: Consider partnering with other dentists to share resources and expertise.

The decline in general dentist income is a challenge, but it is not insurmountable. By taking steps to increase your efficiency, focus on preventive care, and market your practice effectively, you can improve your income and continue to provide quality care to your patients.

In addition to the tips above, dentists can also consider:

Negotiating with insurance companies: Dentists can work with insurance companies to negotiate higher reimbursement rates.

Offering discounts and promotions: Dentists can offer discounts and promotions to attract new patients and increase their revenues.

Expanding their services: Dentists can expand their services to offer additional treatments, such as cosmetic dentistry and laser dentistry.

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