Dental care spending recovering more slowly than other healthcare spending: 13 economic stats to know

While spending on dental care has recovered slightly since the start of the pandemic, it has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, according to data from the American Dental Association. 

The ADA released its third quarter "State of the Dental Economy" report detailing several economic factors in the industry, including staffing shortages, expenses and appointment schedules. 

Thirteen stats to know: 

1. Dentists' confidence in economic recovery improved slightly since June. As of September, 64 percent of dentists indicated they were "somewhat" or "very" confident in the economic recovery of their dental practices; 56 percent were confident in the recovery of the dental care sector; and 27 percent indicated they were confident in the recovery of the U.S. economy.

2. The fullness of dental practice schedules has remained steady since early 2022. Dental practice schedules nationally were 86 percent full in September.

3. Patient no-shows and late cancellations continue to be the top barrier to practice schedules reaching 100 percent fullness, with 81.7 percent of dentists citing these reasons in September.

4. Regarding factors limiting patient volume, the ADA noted that low patient demand is becoming more prominent, while staffing shortages are becoming less prominent. This could be a sign of slowing demand for dental care, but more data is needed, the ADA said.

5. Dental assistants and dental hygienists remain the most needed positions at dental practices, with 37.7 percent and 36.4 percent of dental practices recruiting these roles in September, respectively.

6. The majority of dentists surveyed said prices increased for most practice expenses in September, including personal protective equipment, supplies, rent/mortgage, staff wages, equipment and lab fees. Supplies, staff wages and lab fees increased the most.

7. The majority of dentists reported that insurance reimbursement rates remained stagnant over the past year, while 1 in 4 said their insurance reimbursement rates decreased. 

8. Spending on dental services in August was estimated at $113.4 billion, a 0.7 percent increase from July, a 6.4 percent increase from August 2021, and a 9 percent decrease from pre-pandemic levels. 

9. While spending on dental care services remains below pre-pandemic levels, overall spending on healthcare services recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and spending on physician services has nearly recovered.

10. The number of jobs in dental offices in August reached an all-time high of 1,041.5, up .01 percent from July, up 4.3 percent from August 2021, and up 4.8 percent from pre-pandemic levels.

11. The ratio of non-dentist jobs to dentist jobs is below pre-pandemic levels, sitting at 5.18 compared to 5.58 in early 2020.

12. Wages for nonsupervisory dental employees were an average of $30.95 per hour, a 0.1 percent increase from the prior month, a 1.8 percent decrease from 12 months prior, and 0.1 percent increase from before the pandemic.

13. The annual inflation rate for dental services in August was 4.7 percent, representing a 14-year high. However, dental services inflation is below the overall inflation of the U.S. economy.

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