Dentists’ revenues collapse in 2020: Microsite Coronavirus (COVID-19)
CHICAGO, USA: New research from the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute (HPI) shows that the average net earnings of general dentists (GPs) in the United States fell 17.9% in 2020 by report to 2019. In a recent webinar, Dr. Marko Vujicic, chief economist and vice president of HPI, explained that the drop in net income has been significantly greater for women and older dentists.
In a webinar on September 2, Vujicic explored the findings of a September report from HPI that specifically looked at dentist earnings. He explained that the report aimed to measure the recovery of American dentistry from the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to quantify the impact of the pandemic on the net income of dental professionals.
Based on nationally representative annual survey data of American dentists and adjusted for inflation, the report found that the average net income of general dentists in the United States declined by 17.9% in 2020. compared to 2019. Specialist dentists saw a smaller drop (6.9%) in their income, and they also worked more hours than their generalist colleagues.
Female general dentists saw a significantly larger decrease in their income and hours worked in 2020 compared to their male colleagues. “For me, this is another data point showing that the pandemic has really affected people’s working lives and working conditions very differently by gender, and our data is no exception,” Vujicic commented.
“We have certainly seen the careers of professional women disrupted to a much greater extent than [those of their] male colleagues “
Vujicic explained that the net earnings of female general dentists declined on average by 26.6%, compared to 15.0% for their male counterparts. Older dentists also saw a larger drop in their bottom line. The report found that general dentists under 40 saw a decline of 10.3%, those aged 40 to 64 saw a decline of 18.0%, and those aged 65 or older saw their net income fell by almost a third (27.5%).
It was observed that the number of hours worked in the dental clinic correlated with the levels of net income. On average, the working hours of general dentists decreased by 16.6% in 2020 and the working hours of specialist dentists decreased by 11.7%.
A larger drop in hours worked was observed among female general dentists and older practitioners. Female general dentists worked 22.1% fewer hours in 2020, while their male counterparts worked 14.5% fewer hours. Older dentists worked 21.0% fewer hours, while their colleagues under 40 worked 13.2% fewer hours.
Vujicic said that in early 2020, while most dental clinics were only dealing with emergencies, general dentists worked on average 11:00 per week, and the specialists had worked on average 12 hours per week.
Pandemic challenges preventing dental clinics from seeing more patients
At nearly 90% of pre-pandemic levels in mid-August this year, Vujicic said the volume of patients in U.S. dental clinics had reached a new high in his recovery from the pandemic. He said that while the news is encouraging, HPI research sought to identify the factors that limited the practices from exceeding the 90% recovery rate. HPI has identified three main reasons. The main factor was the understaffing, he said, followed by the COVID-19 protocols that were in place to limit the transmission of the virus. The third most important factor limiting subsequent recovery of patient volumes was the dental patients themselves. Vujicic said a continuous and gradual increase in the number of patients returning to dental clinics is being observed.
“One big thing that emerges in the data is the issue of recruiting challenges, ”Vujicic pointed out. He said data from HPI showed a serious recruitment drive was underway, particularly in the search for dental hygienists and dental assistants. However, of about a third of the practices that recruited hygienists or assistants, 90% described the process as extremely or very difficult.
When asked if the current benchmark of 90% of pre-pandemic patient volumes would be the ‘new normal’, Vujicic said the top three factors HPI identified as limiting patient volume growth should not change. in a close future. “I would say in the short term I would expect us to hover around 90% or [around a percentage that is] in the 1990s. He added, however, that he expected the 90% threshold to eventually be exceeded. “I certainly don’t see this as a long-term ‘new normal’ […] but in the next three to six months, I think so, ”he explained.
A participant asked if the decline in women’s net income was related to child care, and Vujicic responded that there were important questions the dental community needed to answer. He said that while HPI data showed the majority of dentists were back to work, the impact on labor supply persisted and differed by gender. He said the literature showed that childcare and care for other family members had disproportionately affected women in many sectors. “We have certainly seen the careers of professional women disrupted to a much greater extent than [those of their] male colleagues, ”he said.
The HPI report, entitled How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected dentist income?, and the webinar of the same name, are available on the ADA website.