Positive signs in the dental industry continue
In a recent webinar, the Health Policy Institute and the ADA presented findings from a recent survey of dental practices focused on the state of practices reopening. In the week beginning May 18, they surveyed approximately 12,000 dentists nationally, obtaining a response from about 50%. As of May 18th, 40 states had re-opened for elective dental care, which includes a mix of states with and without restrictions and the results indicated positive trends in the dental industry.

The national outlook

Nationally, dental practices are re-opening. The survey found that 10.8% of dental practices stated they were open and doing business as usual. Another 53.9% reported being open but having lower patient volumes than normal. Larger dental practices, defined as having 10 or more dentists, are returning to work faster. These practices reported 18.4% being open and back to business as usual and 44.8% reported being open but lower patient volume than normal. Not surprisingly, practices that re-opened were more likely to be located in counties with lower COVID-19 infection rates. Top stats from a national perspective
  • Patient volume continues to rise nationwide. Patient volume was at 38% of pre-COVID-19 levels the week of May 18th.
  • Dental practices continue to hire back staff at a steady pace with 58.1% fully paying staff and 26.5% partially paying staff the week of May 18th.
  • Layoffs hit employee dentist s hard. They are now being hired back, but not as rapidly as other staff. During the week of May 18th, 27.3% were being paid in full, with 37.9% being paid partially.
What is keeping dental practices from re-opening for elective care? The most common reason for 61% of respondents is that their state is not open for elective care. This reason is closely followed by 52.9% stating their dental practice lacks an adequate supply of PPE. When asked how many days’ worth of PPE their dental practice has on hand, they found open practices have higher PPE stockpiles compared to practices that are closed. This confirms PPE availability is an important factor in the decision to re-open. Even though PPE supply is a concern, there have been great gains since the week of May 4th in the availability of PPE for dental practices. This is especially true in the ability to purchase N95 masks and face shields.

Results from the 40 open states

Looking only at responses from those in the 40 states that are now open for elective procedures, we find even more positive signs. States with no restrictions are reporting average patient volumes at 51% of pre-COVID-19 levels. In those open, but with restrictions, patient volume is about 38% compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Rehiring is stronger in unrestricted states with 75.4% reporting fully hiring back employees.

Results from states open for a full three-weeks since May 4th

Of the 27 states that have been open for three full weeks since May 4th, 20.4% of states are back to business as usual. Patient volume in these states increased compared to levels before COVID-19 from an average of 31% during the week of May 4th to an average of 54% during the week of May 18. With patient volume being more than half of pre-COVID-19 levels, 80% of dental practices have fully hired back their teams and another 16.5% are partially paying staff.

The main takeaways

Dental practices are recovering. Consumer attitudes are encouraging when it comes to visiting the dentist. The data indicates the public is prioritizing visiting the dentist when it comes to health care services. This shows with patient volume rebounding to 38% of pre-COVID 19 levels nationwide as reported in the week of May 18th. In the 27 states that have been open for elective care for at least three weeks, the patient volume has rebounded to54% of pre-COVID 19 levels. Dental practices also continue to hire back staff quickly. This is an incredibly positive sign for the dental industry.