Recent data covering the latest economic impacts resulting from COVID-19 shows a slight decline in both patient volume and staffing levels in dental offices. As the pandemic continues and cases rise, the dental care sector could be affected negatively. This means that the health and safety of all employees and patients should be of the utmost importance in order to avoid another recession.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), 99% of dental offices in the United States are now open as of the week of October 19th. In terms of the operating status, 40% of these practices are reporting “business as usual”. This is a category that has been decreasing over recent months as COVID-19 continues to be a persistent issue. In close relation to this information, patient volume is also at 78% of pre-COVID-19 levels which also represents a slight decrease.
These decreases are the direct result of the ongoing pandemic and can be seen while examining patient volume by geography. Information from the ADA shows that patient volume is lowest in larger cities. Despite the fact that patient volume is decreasing, there is only a weak correlation tying it to COVID-19. States with a greater increase in cases have a slightly greater decline in patient volume. The same trends can be seen while considering test positivity rates and patient volume.
Staffing in dental practices is another factor being affected and declining. As of October 19th, staffing in offices was at 91% of pre-COVID-19 levels. Employee dentists have seen the biggest employment effects with about 26% of them being paid only partially or not at all. In regard to staff not being paid at all, less than 20% were receiving unemployment benefits.
Although operating levels, patient volume, and staffing have all seen slight declines because of the pandemic, there are still some positive factors to consider. PPE availability and consumer attitudes towards visiting the dentist continue to remain stable. Hopefully, if COVID-19 case numbers begin to stabilize or decline over the coming months, the dental industry can remain stable and avoid a larger slowdown.