Practice schedules were 87% full on average for April, a level of activity last reported by polled dentists a year ago.
Results from April’s Economic Outlook and Emerging Issues in Dentistry, a tracking poll that the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI) started in January 2022, showed a low that January of 76.6% of respondents indicating a full schedule. The newest poll, conducted the week of April 17, nearly matched the percentage of dentists who indicated full schedule last April, but not since.
Among the factors noted as preventing schedules from reaching 100% were trouble filling vacant staff positions, not enough patients making appointments, and no-shows and cancellations under 24 hours. In fact, short-notice cancellation was selected by about 8 of 10 responding dentists as a reason their practice schedules weren’t full.
Other key results from the poll
Recruitment challenges continue: More than a third of dentists indicated they’re recruiting for dental hygienists and dental assistants, with 95% and 87.7% respectively noting that filling those roles is “extremely challenging” or “very challenging.” These percentages are higher than they were in April 2022, which showed dentists found those roles “extremely” or “very challenging” at 92.4% for dental hygienists and 84.3% for dental assistants.
Employment benefits or incentives: For those particular roles, dental hygienist and dental assistant, 89% of dentists polled reported raising the starting pay, and almost half reported changing working hours to suit applicants’ needs.
Patient wait times: 8,222 responses indicate that patient wait times are at a six-month high, with the average patient of record waiting 12.1 business days for an appointment, excluding emergencies. New patients wanting an initial appointment waited an average of 21.7 days in April. For both new and existing patients, wait times have steadily increased since the beginning of 2023.