The sweeping changes and challenges of 2020 have carried over into this calendar year, and they’ve left many businesses and even entire industries with concerns about the future. Dentistry is no different. Due to the unique demands placed on health care providers as a result of the COVID pandemic and some ongoing challenges within dentistry itself, many dentists and dental practices are wondering what to do next. To offer some answers to the many questions you may have, we’d like to offer our financial forecast for dentists and dentistry, looking forward to the rest of 2021 and a bit beyond.
The business of dentistry has been in a growth phase since 2015, with both the financial market share and the number of participating dentists growing steadily. While this was short and medium-term news, in the long run, it poses some further questions. Whether or not there are too many dentists practicing today is a hotly debated question in professional circles, but the fact is there may be more than enough providers to meet patient demand. Many forecasts suggest that there may be too many dentists by the year 2040; others suggest that we’re already seeing that happen now. While the US population is growing, there are concerns that demographic growth isn’t keeping up with the number of new dentists entering the profession annually.
A surplus of dentists may have been navigable in and of itself. However, along came COVID, and with it a series of changes to both how dentists’ offices handle patients and patient care and a shift in the attitudes of many patients towards in-office visits. In brief, many patients or potential patients have been avoiding in-office care due to concerns about contracting the disease. This has led to patients postponing making appointments for regular exams and cleanings. These delays have a deleterious effect on both patient health and the financial flow of many offices, particularly smaller practices. The future of the pandemic is both uncertain and uneven within the United States. While some states are close to reopening in full, others are facing spikes in the number of reported cases and hospitalizations related to COVID.
So where does that leave us? While there are challenges facing dental practices across the US right now, they are not insurmountable. With careful planning and attention to some important aspects of patient care, most dentists’ offices should be able to weather this particular storm. We’d like to offer a series of recommendations going forward:
- Retaining and replacing patients is going to be a critical concern for most dental practices for the foreseeable future. Many patients are still reluctant to seek non-critical dental care due to concerns about COVID. It is incumbent upon dental practices to project and communicate that their office is a safe environment, in which all precautions have been taken to ensure that both patients and staff are protected from disease transmission.
- Teledentistry is here to stay, and dental practices of all sizes need to adapt to that reality. Finding solutions to ensure that patients can communicate remotely with their oral health care providers in a safe, secure, and effective way is now part of maintaining and building your practice.
- Patient communication will be critical in the success of your practice, and it will require moving beyond traditional avenues of contact. You’ll need to make use of every tool available: texting, email, social media, chatbots, phone calls, and mailers. Ensuring that patients understand what’s going on and how you’re working to provide safe and high-quality care is a must.
As many dentists’ practices are facing staffing challenges due to the shutdowns and school closures related to COVID, keeping up with this additional workload may prove a challenge. To that end, engaging professional help in managing your patient communication, marketing, and social media may prove beneficial in both the short and long run. Regardless of the solutions you find, we hope that our financial forecast for dentists and dentistry proves helpful in planning for the months to come.