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Dentistry and COVID-19: Economic Impact on Dental Practices

Dentistry and Covid-19

At US Dental Transitions, we’re no stranger to the conflicting perspective dentists often have about operating their practice. We commonly hear: “I love being a dentist. I’m just tired of managing the practice.” 

Being a Dentist is One Thing. Managing a Practice is Another.

Over the last few months, we’ve heard this sentiment being expressed time-and-time again. Here are some actual quotes: 

“I’m a great dentist, I’m just a horrible business person.”    

“I’m 39 years old and I want to practice dentistry for as long as I can. I’m just worried how Coronavirus may impact my practice.”

“I never want to go through PPP, furloughing employees, marketing, hiring Associates, ordering special equipment, etc.  I want to continue to practice but I don’t want the overall responsibility of managing the practice.”

“Is there a way for me to keep practicing dentistry and not be the person in charge of the office?” 

We receive requests every day from buyers who are looking for dental practices.  Whether it’s a solo practitioner or one of our boutique DSOs, there are no shortages of interested parties looking to acquire established practices. 

Dentistry and COVID-19: Future Outlook of Today’s Dental Practices

COVID-19 has put challenges on health professionals around the world, and dentistry is one sector that has been impacted significantly. 

The role of dentists and oral health professionals in preventing the spread of coronavirus is critically important. While many dental practices embrace careful and methodical re-opening after months of being suspended, some dentists are considering all possible opportunities amidst a questionable future. 

Recent studies have highlighted the moral decision-making dilemmas that today’s dentists face. One such study by the British Dental Journal examined dentistry and the global context of the COVID-19 pandemic and highlights the moral status of dental healthcare personnel in balancing care for patients and personal welfare.

Amidst the vast collection of information available on the web, it is difficult to identify research-based evidence and reliable guidance. Many dentists face a difficult crossroads in determining the future of their practice. In this post, we delve into the overarching sentiment in operating a dental practice and what options professionals have to best move forward. 

Trends & Projections in Dental Care Amid COVID-19

To better understand the impact of COVID-19 on dental practices throughout the U.S., the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute started conducting biweekly surveys on the economic conditions during the pandemic. This purpose behind this initiative seeks to quantify the magnitude of the COVID-19’s impact on dental practices over time.

The ADA provides an updated dashboard where survey findings are organized, including trends in how dentists respond to key questions surrounding the current status, patient volume, and collections of their practice.   

It’s clear COVID-19’s impact on the dental care sector has had devastating magnitude in April and May. But as we head into the Summer months of 2020, most dental practices have reopened. 

Monthly Dental Spending Projections COVID-19

The ADA has outlined various scenarios forecasting the economic future of the dental sector. As cited in the Health Policy Institute’s research brief, certain scenarios have more optimistic projections compared to others. However, the underlying economic recovery of dentistry is expected to be gradual, with the most optimistic of scenarios anticipating early 2021 before dental care spending returns to baseline.  

Sentiment Among Dentists for Summer 2020

Perhaps most interesting about the Health Policy Institute’s biweekly polls is how dentists feel about the short-term outlook of their practices in the coming summer months.  

In a survey conducted in early June, the Health Policy Institute asked dentists (who’s practices are currently closed or closed by open for emergencies) if they expect their dental practice to reopen for elective care by the end of the month. While 69% of respondents said yes, 19% were not sure, and 12% said no.

Among those who were unsure or not planning to reopen in the month of June, a follow-up question asked those dentists about their future intentions for their practices over the next six months. Of all applicable options, the Health Policy Institute found that:

72.% would reopen their practice

16% anticipated retirement

13% planned to sell their practice

6.5% would find another profession

5.3% anticipated filing for bankruptcy 

2.4% would seek DSO affiliate opportunities

12.4% specified “other” plans

Among the most common “other” alternatives, 27.3% planned to seek other jobs in dentistry, 27.3% were weighing options based on future uncertainties, 13.6% would reopen with a different practice model, and 13.6% planned to wait it out until a vaccine was made available.

In summary, of the 12% that are not back in business, nearly 30% of those dentists are considering some sort of exit strategy. Meanwhile, those who remain idle are up against major challenges that could inevitably cripple their practice, such as financial strains with overhead costs, retaining vital staff members, and maintaining relationships with patients.

In the era of COVID-19 and the future of dentistry in question, we at US Dental Transitions offer solutions designed to fit your needs. For more resources and information about buying and selling a dental practice, we invite you to consult our team to determine a strategy that makes the most sense for you and your practice’s future.

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