For dental professionals, patient volumes have stabilized in recent months, but the looming omicron surge may be casting a shadow on industry confidence.

The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute released its final COVID-19 impact study of 2021, showing that while patient volumes have steadied in recent months, the latest surge is shaking confidence.

According to the latest study, general dentists maintained around 90% of their pre-pandemic patient volume, staying within about a percentage point of their level for the past few months. 

However, orthodontists saw a notable decline from 88% to just 83.6% of patient volumes. It is important to note that while 1,175 general dentists took part in the report, only 37 orthodontists were surveyed.

A quarter of dentists indicated they raised fees last month to maintain financial sustainability, replacing borrowing as the most common method early in 2021. HPI says this was most likely due to the timing of federal relief programs.

Nearly 47% of orthodontists reported raising fees in the same period, while a quarter indicated that they had downsized staff.

Confidence in recovery also took a hit in the final 2021 report. General dentist confidence in recovery for their practice dropped from 75% to 71%. For orthodontists, confidence fell from 76.6% to 59.4% 

According to HPI, a similar drop in confidence occurred in August on early news from the Delta variant. The recent decline in confidence might be attributed to the Omicron variant surge.

The complete survey and specialist breakdown are available online.

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