The latest ADA HPI survey shows that patient volumes are inching closer to pre-pandemic levels, but complications make it harder to meet staffing demands.

According to the November American Dental Association Health Policy Institute survey, dental patient volumes hit 91% of their pre-pandemic levels, the highest since March 2020, while orthodontists alone are seeing 88% of patient volumes.

In terms of total collections, orthodontists were slightly higher than general dentists, bringing in 90.6% of pre-pandemic collections compared to 90.3%, respectively.

Orthodontists reported that the main limitation to increased patient visits was that patients simply weren’t making appointments and that COVID safety protocols caused capacity issues.

This is in contrast to general dentists who reported that filling vacant positions was the main limitation. About a third of dentists reported needing more staff than usual to see the same amount of patients.

“For almost all positions on the dental team, recruiting has become increasingly difficult,” said Marko Vujicic, PhD, ADA HPI chief economist, and vice president.

Other hindrances included increased costs of PPE, with masks doubling in price and gloves tripling in price in some instances compared to the start of the pandemic.

To maintain financial viability, 23.3% of orthodontists reported increasing fees, and 20% reported changing suppliers or labs.

No orthodontists downsized staff in the past month, though 10% reported reducing hours. This is compared to 7% and 13% for general dentists. 

However, It is important to note that HPI only received 30 orthodontist responses to the question, compared to 1,152 general dentists.

The complete survey and specialist breakdown are available online.

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