Dental Practice Management Survey: Dental Fee Increases Depend on Local Economies

Raising dental feesThis dental practice management survey asked dentists how often they raise their fees.

There’s a mixture of good and bad news, depending on local economic health.

Most dentists have raised their fees in the past 2 years.

Close to a third (30%) of the dentists we surveyed said they raise fees every year.

Almost a quarter (24%) answered that they’ve increased fees during the past 2 years, but not in the past year.

At the other extreme, 5%  have lowered their fees during the past year. Said a Washington Dentist in this group, “One of our insurance providers froze our fees and lowered our reimbursement by 15%.”

The rest of the responses were split — 14% said they haven’t raised fees in over 2 years; 19% said it’s been more than 3 years, and 8% said it’s been more than 5 years since they’ve had an increase.

Although dental consultants strongly advise yearly increases, many dentists practice in locations where the local economy just won’t support increases due to high unemployment or other regional factors.

“I have a shrinking profit margin. Many of my patients have reduced or no income due to the recession and hurricane Sandy. If I raise my fees I believe fewer patients will accept treatment.” Dentist in the northeast

“I used to raise my fees every 1 to 2 years without fail. But with the economy as it has been the last few years, it has been tough to do.” Illinois Dentist

“With the economy as it is and the number of people out of work, I find it hard to raise my fees. People just cannot afford good dental care. They put off any dental work until an emergency arises.” New York Dentist

“I fell off the wagon during the recession of 07/08, but I’m back on track with yearly adjustments.” South Carolina Dentist

When was the last time you raised your dental fees?

Dental Survey: Dentists Still Cautious About Raising Fees

Dentists are cautious about raising feesAs small business owners, dentists know that it’s good dental management to raise fees on a regular basis…if their market supports it.

“It makes sense to raise your fees by at least the local or regional cost of living increase (inflation %) to keep up with that. Around here it is currently about 3% per year.” Ohio prosthodontist

In this survey, we asked dentists how long its been since they raised their fees.

In some regions, the economy is rallying enough that dentists have been able to increase rates.

Within the past year, 27% of the dentists in our survey have raised their fees; and 13% have done so within the past 6 months.

“I am considering it as the economy looks more hopeful and because prices are going up all over…and I have to pay my own bills.” Texas dentist

However, 60% of our dentists have not increased fees within the past 2 years…or longer:

It’s been more than 3 years since 40% of our dentists raised their fees.

“Still pretty shy about raising fees as often as we used to, due to the weak economy and patients struggling fnancially.” Illinois dentist

And 20% of our responding doctors haven’t raised their fees in more than 5 years.

“Just can’t pull the trigger since the recession killed us.” New York dentist

“With the insurance companies basically setting the fees, raising fees too often only hurts the patients who do not have insurance.” Missouri dentist

How is your local economy doing? When was the last time you raised your dental fees?

Dentist Annual Fee Increases: Dental Management

Dentist schedules: 55% are open lateDentist annual fee increases aren’t universal in a recession economy, suggests this survey. While half of dentists (54%) report that they have raised fees in the past year, it’s been over a year since their last fee increase for the other half (44%). And 2% have even lowered their dental fees.

Those who did raise fees did it by an average of 4.5%. “Staff realized how important it was and influenced me!” said one dentist. “I was hesitant at this time, but they insisted because of how expenses are increasing, etc, not because they want raises. They know the difficulties of today running a practice.”

It’s worth noting that not one pediatric dentist in this survey said they had raised fees in the past 12 months. “I’m holding fees steady this year. Economy and all,” said one children’s dentist.

Dental consultants tell dentists they should be raising dental fees each and every year as a part of their dental management. Here are some comments from dentists on the topic:

  • “I’ve had patients leaving to find a network dentist for a few dollars savings. A fee increase does not seem wise or humane.” (Texas dentist)
  • “In a down market, reducing fees can offer a competitive advantage.” (California periodontist)
  • “Don’t increase across the board. Some up, some the same.” (Periodontist)
  • “Although we have raised our default fees, my fees are primarily based on the complexity and difficulty of the case.” (Dental implant dentist)
  • “Will be meeting soon to review our costs and the economic situation.” (North Carolina oral surgeon)
  • “This year I raised them 5%, similar last year The demand for my services is high.” (West Virginia TMJ dentist)
  • “Difficult to raise dental fees during these difficult economic times.” (New Jersey dentist)
  • “Once per year we increase fees at least 3-4% to keep up with annual inflation. A few fees are increasing more than 4%, like gold dental crown fees.” (Ohio prosthodontist)
  • “We kept the basic services the same (prophys etc) but raised the other fees. We find that patients do not notice the increase unless we increase the prophy and exam fees.” (California dentist)
  • “Since some of our co-pays are based on a percentage of our registered fees, we had to increase our fees.” (New Jersey dentist)

Read more – Dental Management: Annual Dental Fee Increase

Dentists’ Greatest Fear – Raising Fees (video)

Dental feesMost dentists have been avoiding fee increases, this survey found, even though regular fee increases are a basic principle of effective dental management.

But in a recession, dentists fear they’ll alienate patients if they raise dental fees.

“Same fees, more dental marketing…” said one orthodontist.

Read more: Dentists and Dental Practices May Have To Raise Fees

Raising Dental Fees (Survey Video)

Dental management: Raising dental feesAs a normal part of running a small business, dentists have to deal with increasing costs of materials, lab fees, payroll and other dental practice management expenses.

Basic business economics says that as your costs rise, so should your fees. But that’s not necessarily been the case for many dentists.

Jim and Julie discuss some of the realities surrounding whether or not dentists have raised their fees:

“Raising my fees just puts an onerous burden on my uninsured patients, and does not raise revenues on the majority of procedures. Rather, it just increases the amount I have to write off,” complained a Michigan Dentist. “I’m getting closer to dropping participation with all ‘managed cost’ programs.”

“I know I need to raise my fees, but people are constantly complaining of cost,” says a Georgia Dentist who hasn’t raised fees in over two years.

“I feel dental offices should always raise fees to reflect the current annual rate of inflation. We keep our fees in line with local and regional averages and adjust ours annually to keep up with inflation,” said an Ohio Prosthodontist.

If you’d like to share your opinions in future surveys, just sign up for our weekly dental marketing and management newsletter at TheWealthyDentist.com.

How long has it been since you’ve raised your fees?

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