'Things are really out of control': How rising costs are affecting dental practices

Many dental practices are seeing costs increase for supplies, materials and staff wages.

Five dentists shared with Becker's how rising costs have affected their practices. 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity.

Question: How are costs increasing at your practice?

Marian Bradford, DDS. Premier Dental of South Orange County (Aliso Viejo, Calif.): There are two categories where I have seen unproportionate cost increases in the last few years. The first category where cost increases have been substantial is supplies and materials. The cost of supplies skyrocketed during COVID. Although the cost of PPE has decreased substantially over the initial inflated prices during the heart of the pandemic, the overall cost has remained 15-20 percent more than in early 2020. 

The second category where the cost increase has been staggering is staff wages. The hourly rate for each of my employees from front office staff to [registered dental assistants] to hygienists has increased significantly in the last few years. The staffing shortage in dentistry at this time has created great opportunities for those holding auxiliary positions in the field to receive much greater hourly compensation, salaries, as well as benefit packages. Additionally, the rate requested by temporary or day staff is astounding. Hygienists on sites like Princess Dental Staffing offering to fill in for a day or two on a temporary basis are requesting $60-$70/hour for their services. This is nearly a 20-30 percent increase since early 2020. Without a doubt, practice operating costs have gone up in a manner that many who have been in the field for years have not previously experienced.

Jordan Cooper, DDS. Cooper Family Dentistry (Jacksonville, Ark.): Labor has increased around 1-2 percent year over year since the COVID-19 pandemic, probably starting in 2020.  We have seen scarcity in supplies increase that cost around an additional .5 percent of revenue.  I feel like this is in line with or below most industries. I am an MB2 Dental doctor, so I get quite a big discount from suppliers and the procurement team [and] we have barely felt the inflationary pressure.

Rick Singel, DDS. (Cincinnati): Actually, every cost is increasing these days. From dental supplies to shipping costs to lab costs — and mostly personnel costs.

Wages have gone through the roof from a few years ago.

To find people, to keep people, I am paying what I would have considered unreasonable and impossible just a couple of years ago. It is so hard to find people to work. You have to lure them with salary figures just so you can interest them in even interviewing.

Things are really out of control.

Pasha Javaheri Saatchi, DMD. Pasha Dental (New York City): Everything is increasing. We thought once the pandemic normalized, it would provide a respite from the increased costs in supply chain issues and inflation, but that hasn't been the case. Payroll has also increased tremendously. The widespread staffing issues that have plagued dental offices instilled a fear in me. I was happy with my staff and with pay transparency becoming much more prevalent. I had to offer very competitive wages to keep them.  

Ryan Stukenberg, DMD. First Arrow Dental (New Baden, Ill.): Costs of materials have steadily risen over the past few years. I find myself going to non-traditional product suppliers to find the best deals. Traditional suppliers (Patterson and Henry Schein, etc.) receive very little material supplies business from me due to their higher mark-up prices on many products that are the same or similar.

Staff costs are the number one increase over the last few years. We have a low supply of new hires with an increasing wage for each staff member.

While all our costs continue to rise month over month, we do not receive any higher reimbursement from dental insurance companies that we remain in network with. Our office is pursuing going out of network with some major dental insurance companies so that we can continue to employ the staff that we want/need and still buy the quality supplies that we would require to maintain adequate care for our patients.

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