The coronavirus pandemic continues to dramatically impact the practice of dentistry as millions of Americans are delaying appointments. Some observers believe that this will result in an increase in practice transitions and consolidation in the dental industry. The best way to navigate this unprecedented challenge is to consult with an attorney who represents dental practices.
Dental Patients Have Concerns About Coronavirus
According to the American Dental Association(ADA), the number of patients visiting offices is 20 percent below usual levels. The ADA projects spending on dental care to fall by 38 percent this year and 20 percent in 2021. As spending on dental care continues to fall, dentists also face increased costs arising from federally mandated safety measures related to coronavirus.
These measures include:
- Increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as N95 masks and disposable gowns
- Air purifiers
- Cleaning solutions
- Temperature checks
- Hand-washing and social distancing (having patients wait in their cars until their appointment is set begin)
The ADA estimates the costs of such measures to be about $15 to $20 per patient, which dentists are passing along to their patients through increased fees. In addition, dentists are unable to see as many patients as normal because of social distancing requirements and additional time needed to sterilize their offices.
As dental practices struggle to manage increased costs and lower patient volumes, the pandemic will make it increasingly difficult for solo practitioners to remain viable. Ultimately, more and more dentists may move to join group practices while others are likely to sell their practices to investors.
The COVID-19 pandemic also presents significant challenges to new dentists who may not be in a position to finance launching a practice. Given these exigencies, one option is to join a Dental Services Organization, which provides back-office support to handle human resources, billing, and related matters while allowing a dentist to focus on patient care
While dental industry leaders are not aware of documented cases of COVD-19 outbreaks in dental offices, patients remained concerned for their safety. Despite following protocols established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the potential for lockdowns is high as the second wave of the pandemic looms large. Because therapeutics are still in development and a vaccine may not be available until next year, if at all, the future of dentistry remains uncertain. By working with an attorney who has working knowledge of the dental industry, you will be better equipped to manage the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.