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After a slight decrease in patient volume in November and December, a recent survey by the American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute reveals a recovery for dental practices in the new year.
About 3,000 dentists across the country participated in the survey, which reports that 99% of dental practices in the U.S. are open and 43% of practices are experiencing business as usual in terms of patient volume as of Jan. 18.
Compared to business before the pandemic, patient volume in private practices is at 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels and 68% for public health sectors. Staffing is also reflecting more of a sense of normalcy with dental offices at 99% of pre-COVID-19 levels and four out of five employee dentists receiving full pay.
As vaccination efforts continue across the U.S., most dentists believe it is important to discuss COVID-19 vaccination with patients. With more than half of respondents already receiving vaccine questions from patients, 83% of participants say they feel prepared for these conversations.
As for dental staff and their sentiments toward the vaccine, 52% of dentists say most or all of their staff members are confident about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine while 34% say their staff is equally divided about the benefits of getting vaccinated.
CDA’s COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit offers resources to help practice owners discuss vaccination concerns with their staff and patients.
The second round of the Paycheck Protection Program opened mid-January, targeting smaller and harder-hit business that have been impacted by the pandemic.
As of Jan. 18, 21% of surveyed dentists have applied for a Second Draw Paycheck Protection Program loan while 38% say they are in the process of applying or will apply by the March 31 deadline.
Survey participants have also reported making additional efforts to maintain financial stability, including raising fees, borrowing from a bank, reducing dental team hours and changing their materials supplier.
Despite the financial uncertainty, most dentists have an optimistic outlook for 2021. The survey found that 77% of respondents are confident about the recovery of their dental practice and 73% are confident about the recovery of the dental care sector in general.
HPI’s consumer poll reveals that patients are now more confident than ever about returning to the dentist during the pandemic, with 88% reporting that they have already been back or are ready to schedule an appointment.
Patients are not only more confident about returning to the dentist during the pandemic but are also willing to get the COVID-19 vaccine during their visit. When asked if they would get the vaccine at the dental office, 65% of respondents said yes.
HPI experts believe continued growth of patient volume heavily depends on the vaccine rollout and don’t anticipate a full recovery until the summer or fall.