November 24, 2021
Last updated on April 22nd, 2022
Many dental practices are still struggling to get back to their pre-pandemic billing levels. As of late 2021, the Health Policy Institute projects dental spending in the U.S. will be $123.9 billion for the year, only 80% of its pre-pandemic level. Health concerns and labor shortages have taken a toll on dental practices, and that’s showing up clearly in the numbers.
In the face of these headwinds, some practices are taking bold steps, adopting new technologies and expanding both services offered and staff to grow patient visits and revenue per visit.
Some practices that previously referred patients to outside specialists such as endodontists, periodontists, orthodontists and others have brought in skilled associates with experience in high-demand specialities. Finding the right associate — one with the requisite training and experience who will also fit your office culture — can be daunting. For this reason, many practices turn to outside recruitment firms who have the geographic scope to reach a large number of associates, the expertise to sort, qualify and match them to the hiring practice and — not least — the time needed to find, vet and recruit high-quality practitioners.
Innovations are also widening the scope of services that dental offices can offer. Some of the most popular are:
Teledentistry: The surge in telehealth spawned by the Covid-19 pandemic will likely remain a permanent part of the landscape for the foreseeable future. While dental care can’t be done remotely, teledentistry is a good fit for consultations, self-care advice and determining whether an in-person visit is necessary. For patients who are hesitant about visiting a dentist, seeking advice and information online is much less threatening and may lead to increased appointments. The American Dental Association even issued a complete policy on teledentistry to help practices best serve their patients.
Laser Dental Treatments: Medical lasers have been around for decades, and they’ve inevitably made their way into dental offices. Today they’re used to clean up caries before filling, reshape gums and remove bacteria during root canals, remove lesions and tooth whitening. As an alternative to traditional drill-and-suture procedures, laser may cause less pain, minimize bleeding and swelling and reduce patient anxiety that can be induced by using a drill. When promoted on a practice website with a clear explanation of the benefits (perhaps supported by a video testimony from a patient), lasers may reduce hesitancy in some patients.
3D Printing: Making and fitting dental prosthetics is time consuming and costly. Some practices are speeding the process and lowering costs by installing 3D printers rather than waiting for traditional outside labs. As 3D printers proliferate in dental practices, patients will expect quick delivery of prosthodontics, putting those without the capability at a disadvantage.
Cosmetic Injectables: Botox and other dermal injectables are ubiquitous, including in dental offices. In the early days, Botox was used as an adjunct to treatment for temporomandibular joint disorders. Now, many regulatory boards recognize the use of Botox and other dermal injectables in dental offices. For patients with a long and close relationship with their dentist, being able to get these treatments in the practice office is comforting. For dental practices, it can be a way to gain significant additional revenue. Botox treatments range from about $200-$600, while fillers cost about $500-$700 per syringe.
For businesses of all kinds, 2021 was dubbed “the great resignation” as employees across industries used the pandemic to rethink the way they pursue their careers. That was also true among dental staff, especially hygienists.
According to data from a Health Policy Institute study, the pandemic contributed to a further 8% decline in dental hygienists, exacerbating a shortage that existed even before 2020. When asked, hygienists said they left the field because:
The results shine a spotlight on the obvious: If you have qualified staff, treat them well and show concern for their work-life balance. Staff are much less likely to leave a work environment they perceive as being positive, productive and supportive.
Those same attributes can help you fill holes in your organization as well. Practices who’ve earned a reputation as a good place to work find it easier to augment or shore up their staff.
This could be the critical factor in rebuilding a practice post pandemic. It could be several years or more before patients show up in pre-pandemic numbers at dental offices. Adding injectables and 3D printing could be part of the solution for many offices, but you need experienced, trained staff for those new technologies to contribute to revenue.
One solution used by successful dental practices is to turn to professional recruiters who specialize in finding dental staff such as PRODENT SEARCH. Their history of placements and large network of dental professionals give them a huge advantage in sourcing and securing staff, including those qualified with lasers, injectables and 3D printing.
In addition, the time saved by not having to hunt down, qualify and interview potential candidates can be used providing care to patients, increasing revenues while also increasing the number, kinds and profitability of services offered.
This is the time to step up and step out to position your practice for success in the new year. PARTNER WITH PRODENT
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