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COVID-19 and its effect on dentistry: Predictions, recommendations

Jan. 5, 2021
COVID-19 will no doubt affect dentistry for months to come. Let’s take a look at how patients view their dental visits, as well as some recommendations for making your practice stronger in 2021.
Vicki Cheeseman, Associate Editor

2020 was the year of the wild ride. The unexpected happened. The unknown made itself real. From March 2020 to the present, dentistry has been forever changed. But not all changes are bad. There is room for growth through positive change.

While cumulative spending for dental services was down 16.8% in 2020, “The new normal that emerges once the pandemic has been controlled will likely differ from pre-pandemic spending patterns.”1 Further, “The recent increase in the use of telehealth services could be sustained at a level well above pre-pandemic rates.”1

There are a few predictions for dentistry in 2021, as well as some strategies to strengthen dental practices across the board. These thoughts were taken from Legwork, an engagement software company.2

Dental predictions for 2021:

  • Dental offices, especially solo practices, will feel extra strain to retain patients and replace ones they've lost.
  • Staffing shortfalls will continue to impact the dental industry.
  • Teledentistry will gain even more traction.

Recommendations for 2021:

  • Communicate regularly and intentionally with patients.
  • Offer your patients and team convenient, touchless options.
  • Work on attracting new patients in 2021.

The American Dental Association's (ADA) Health Policy Institute studied how COVID-19 has impacted dentistry in its report, “The impact of COVID-19 on the dental care sector.”3 Listed below are statistics from the report regarding how patients feel about visiting the dental practice.3

Consumer thoughts on dental visits:

  • 23% are recently active patients.
  • 60% are ready to go to their next dental appointments.
  • 12% are waiting for a medical breakthrough—i.e., a COVID-19 vaccine and/or assurance of a proven medical protocol to mitigate and remedy the effects of the virus—before returning for treatment.
  • 5% are willing to see the dentist when they have assurance from local/national medical authorities, local/national government officials, and/or the dental practice itself that it is safe to return for a dental appointment.

With 83% of patients ready and willing to see a dentist,3 going the extra mile to reassure them that your practice is a safe and healthy environment is one critical way you can strengthen your practice in the coming months. And with teledentistry, you'll be able to reach even the most anxious patients.

For the latest information and articles about COVID-19 as it relates to dentistry, visit DentistryIQ's COVID-19 Resource Center at this link.


  1. Miller G, Rhyan C, Turner A, Hempstead K. COVID-19 shocks the US health sector: a review of early economic impacts. Health Affairs. December 16, 2020. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20201214.543463/full/
  2. Grillo G, Korfiatis K. Three predictions that impact dentists in 2021. News release. PR Newswire. January 4, 2021. https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/legwork-three-predictions-that-impact-dentists-in-2021-1029931135  
  3. The impact of COVID-19 on the dental care sector. Insights from data for the week of November 16th. American Dental Association. Health Policy Institute. 2020. https://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/HPI/Files/HPI_COVID_Webinar_Nov_2020_2.pdf