Survey reveals that consolidation of the average Canadian dental practice continues

The makeup of the typical Canadian dental practice continues to show consolidation, according to results from the Dental Industry Association of Canada (DIAC) 19th Annual Future of Dentistry Survey.

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Diac LogoThe makeup of the typical Canadian dental practice continues to show consolidation, according to results from the Dental Industry Association of Canada (DIAC) 19th Annual Future of Dentistry Survey. While the number of patients treated per day, per respondent has remained relatively consistent over the last eight years, there have been some real shifts in the practice profile appearing since the 2008 study.

As first reported in 2013, the trend towards recent Canadian dental graduates taking longer to set up their practices than those who graduated in past decades is continuing and, in fact, appears to be accelerating. The number of practice owners taking one year or less to set up or buy their practices after graduation is now down to 29% (compared to an average of 33% over the last three years and much lower than the average of 42% from 2007 to 2011). On the other hand, 12% of owners took 10 years or more to set up or buy their practices after graduation. This represents an all-time high (up from 7.7% last year and an average of 9.8% from 2007 to 2013).

The established practice is also seeing major changes in its makeup. The 2015 survey confirms that there is a trend towards increasing numbers of dentists in the typical established practice. In 2015, 36% identified themselves as sole practitioners (down from an average of 40% over the last seven years), while 9% identified as working for practices with five or more dentists, including the respondent (an all-time high and up from an average of 6.4% over the last 12 years). As might be expected, this shift has been accompanied by an increasing number of operatories in the average practice. Practices with three or fewer operatories have been in steady decline since the survey began, a drop of 27% since 1997 (58% in 1997 compared to 31% in 2015). 65% of respondents in 2015 had four or more operatories, with 28% having more than five (up from 23% last year and up from the average of 19% from 1997 to 2007).

Dentists are also spending more time in the practice, with 17% of dentists now spending over 250 chairside days (an all-time high, compared to an average of 13.7% at that level from 2011 to 2014). This finding is reinforced by a drop in dentists spending under 100 days chairside (4% in 2015, compared to 5.1% in 2014). At the same time, the number of the typical practice’s hygiene days is once again increasing, as 44.8% of 2015 respondents had five or more hygiene days per week (an all-time high and up from an average of 38% over the last eight years).

Yet, despite all of this, dentists are seeing no more patients per day today than they have on average over the past eight years. More than three-quarters of dentists (77.2%) (similar to the last four years: 77% last year, 77% in 2013, 78% in 2012, and 78% in 2011) treated fewer than 15 patients per day in 2015. Over half (52%) are treating between six and 10 patients per day, and 22% are treating 11 to 14 patients in an average day. Overall, dentists treated 12.4 patients in an average day in 2015 (almost exactly the same as the average of 12.5 patients seen per day over the last eight years).

It may be extrapolated that the delay in setting up practices has been a function of the recent poor economy’s impact on patient loads, combined with the rising costs of education and practice setup for the typical younger dentist. For those owning established practices, the trend may well be a function of sharing rising expenses in the face of a static patient load, or it may be an exit strategy for the typical older dentist.

Almost 1,000 practicing Canadian dentists responded to this year’s survey (similar to the response achieved over each of the previous 15 years) with a good proportional distribution across all regions of the country. Based on this response rate, the 2015 survey results overall have an accuracy of +/- 3.3%, 19 times out of 20.

Source: 19th Annual Future of Dentistry Survey
, Dental Industry Association of Canada/Eric P. Jones & Associates Inc.

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