6 challenges affecting dental practice finances in 2022

Inflation, supply chain disruptions and low reimbursement rates are among the top challenges affecting the economic success of dental practices in the U.S.

Here are six economic challenges facing dentistry in 2022:

Inflation

Rajdeep Randhawa, DDS. Innovative Dentistry (Colts Neck, N.J.): Every dental practice is going to be affected differently due to inflation, staffing shortages and supply line disruptions. I have an independent out-of-network, fee-for-service dental practice where the pressure from outdated, meager fee structures and socialistic price controls by all for-profit insurance companies are irrelevant. I can raise the fees as the inflation and cost of doing business increases just like millions of other independent businesses that are not subjected to any of these severe price controls. Inflation is going to increase the cost of doing business in dentistry as there are pressures to increase the compensation for the whole dental team to help them cope with the higher cost of living. 

Supply chain disruptions

Alex Poole, DMD. (Greensboro, N.C.): The major item I'm having difficulty attaining are gloves. I can get gloves but not usually my choice brand. So when I find them available I usually buy cases of them. Also, the price of the gloves have more than tripled in the last 18 months.

Low payer reimbursement rates

Brandon Prusa, DDS. Compass Dental (Chicago): Insurance companies in the dental industry really need to come to a better solution because employees are wanting more money, [and] the bottom line is just getting smaller. Insurance companies, they're the ones that are really making money and they say that they want to help the patient and they're an advocate for their subscribers, but at the end of the day, if you're lowering the reimbursement fee, some dentists have to see more patients so they're tired. [The insurance companies] are shooting themselves in the foot.

Student debt

Matt Carlston, DMD. Vice President of Marketing and Partner Recruitment for Comfort Dental Group: I think that these young dentists don't fully understand how much debt they have and how hard it is to get that paid off. [Comfort Dental] tries to lay out the numbers and help them try and understand that. I haven't met a dental student who goes out and opens their own practice from scratch. It just doesn't happen anymore. They have so much debt, and they can't get the financing for these practices that they want to open.

Patient retention

Mark Malterud, DDS. The Minnesota Center for Minimally Invasive Dentistry (St. Paul): I think the problem [of patient retention] has reached a critical mass. I believe that we have multiple behavior issues going on here. First of all, the COVID-19 shutdown has created a segment of the population that is fearful of coming in, and we need to address that with communication and showing them the care we take to keep the office free and clear of any forms of diseases. Secondly, and this is a greater issue, the mindset of the patients has changed during COVID in that it is so easy to use the COVID fear to back out of an appointment if something comes up.

Workforce shortages

Tim Goodheart, DDS. Goodheart Dental (Raytown, Mo.): Many auxiliary staff have left the profession. Wages for those that remain have dramatically increased. The days of getting employees for a lower-end wage are gone forever. We now have more offices chasing after fewer skilled employees. I believe the standards for compensation and the typical percentages of practice production will be significantly higher over the next three to five years. Second: This has, by default, placed more of a premium on offices with good infection control practices and standards. No longer can we simply go on autopilot and say "dentistry is safe." It now requires us to be proactive and be aware.

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