The Effect of COVID-19 on Dentist Earnings
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to greatly impact the healthcare industry. While analyzing the shutdown of non-emergency dental care during the peak of the pandemic and the limited reopening of dental practices following, dentists’ hours and earnings have taken a hit. The evaluation of different specializations and gender categories illustrate disproportionate data that provides important insight into the current climate of the dental industry.

Although patient volume reached its highest level during the week of August 16th at 89% of pre-COVID levels, practices have faced major challenges when it comes to recruiting dental team members. According to data from the ADA, the most common cause that limits a practice’s ability to see more patients is staffing shortages. Other factors include safety protocols and low patient demand. As practices continue to have issues with hiring and recruitment, the patient volume could continue to be hindered.

These shortages in both staff and patient volume during the pandemic also have a significant effect on other aspects of the dental industry. Average hours worked and average net incomes for dental professionals have both declined. Just in 2020 alone, net income decreased by 17.9% for general practitioners and 6.9% for specialists. Another interesting facet of the changes in net income is observed while considering gender and age. In the past year, net income declined by 26.6% for female general practitioners and only 14.7% for male general practitioners. While examining age, net income declined by 27.5% for older general practitioners and 10.3% for general practitioners younger than 40.

Average hours worked in 2020 followed a similar trend for dental professionals, with numbers declining 16.6% for general practitioners and 11.7% for specialists. Female general practitioner hours decreased by 22.1% while male counterparts’ hours decreased by 14.5%. Additionally, a 21.0% decrease was shown for older general practitioners’ hours and a 13.2% for general practitioners younger than 40. In 2020, both general practitioners and specialists were open for ‘emergencies only’ for about 7 weeks. During this period, the average hours worked per week ranged from 11 to 12.

The chain effect of patient volume decreasing, therefore leading to less hours available for dental professionals, has resulted in a decline of average net income. Thankfully, COVID-19 related relief funds in 2020 have provided some aid to those offices struggling. In 2020, dentists received an average of $95,000 per practice in COVID-19 related relief funds. With this additional assistance and the distributions of vaccinations, things began to look more optimistic. Positive trends and data related to the dental industry will continue to remain steady hand in hand with the expected resolution of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information: HPI Research Brief: How Did the COVID-19 Pandemic Affect Dentist Earnings?