The ADA and data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Medical Expenditure Panel conducted a survey to analyze trends in real gross billings per dentist visit, rates of collection of gross dental patient billings, number of visits to a dentist, percentage of the population who visited a dentist, population to dentist ratio and average real practice expenses.
The survey results reflect a random sample of approximately 4000 to 7000 dentists in private practice.
The survey found that the downward income trend was driven primarily by a decrease in dental patients seeking dental care.
The decline in dental care use, although most notable during the economic downturn, appears to have started before the downturn began.
A smaller portion of the U.S. population is seeing a dental care annually, going from 40.6% in 2005 to 38.6% in 2009.
Marko Vujicic, PhD, an American Dental Association economist, told Medscape Medical News that another study confirmed that an increasing number of Americans say they can no longer afford the dental care they need. Many states cut Medicaid dental benefits at the same time that employers cut back on dental insurance benefits, which left more of the general population without dental insurance coverage.
Further ADA surveys have shown that the reason dental patients don’t go to the dentist more often is that it now costs too much (34%). More than half of consumers (51%) who have not been to the dentist in the past five years report that high costs are an important factor. About 26% of consumers had a previous bad experience with a dentist and one-quarter do not feel that it is necessary to go to the dentist until a problem occurs.
According to the ADA the average gross billings per owner dentist in 2009 was $727,630 for a general practitioner and $1,004,820 for a specialist.
Quality dental marketing seems to help buck the downward income trend by helping dentists acquire more new dental patients. Investing in the latest dental technology also helps add to the dental practice bottom line, according to dental accountant Bassim Michael.
What has your experience been this year? Has your dental practice income dropped?
For more on this story see: Dentists’ Incomes Dropping, Says ADA Survey