Dentists cite patient cancellations as main reason for below full capacity
Schedules in dental practices, on average, were about 83% full in February, an increase from 77% in January, according to the second wave of the ADA Health Policy Institute’s Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry poll.
About 85% of dentists whose appointment schedules were below full capacity in February indicated patient cancellations as a factor, followed by 43% indicating low patient demand and 33.9% having trouble filling vacant staff positions.
Other results from the poll, which involved more than 1,150 respondents, include:
• On average, staffing shortages have caused an estimated 11% reduction in practice capacity. In this wave of the poll, dentists were asked about the maximum capacity of their practice in terms of number of patients when fully staffed and as currently staffed.
• Openings for dental team positions are on the rise again, reaching a new high in February. About 41% of respondents have recently or are currently recruiting dental assistants, and about 35% are recruiting dental hygienists. Among dentists who indicated recruitment was challenging, a lack of applicants is the most common reason dentists are struggling to recruit both dental hygienists and dental assistants. For open dental hygienist positions, the wage and benefit requirements of the applicants is a challenge for dentists. Dentists also indicated a lack of qualified assistant applicants.
• Dentists’ confidence in their practices and the dental care sector has rebounded slightly, but most remain wary of U.S. economic recovery. About 71% of respondents were “very” or “somewhat” confident in the recovery of their dental practice, while 67% felt that way about the dental sector. However, only 34% of responders felt “very” or “somewhat” confident for the U.S. economy overall.
The HPI’s Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry monthly poll began in January to measure the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to gather dentists’ opinions on other current and emerging issues impacting their practices. The revamped panel is a continuation and expansion of the previous poll that HPI conducted between the onset of the pandemic and December 2021.