Looking ahead at the next six months, dentists expect staffing to be one of their top challenges followed by inflation, expenses, and insurance issues, which were the same problems cited the previous year, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute.
About 66% of dentists cited filling staff positions as the biggest challenge they expect to face within the next several months. Meanwhile, 40% reported inflation, overhead, and rising costs as a top challenge, and 39% cited insurance problems, specifically low reimbursements, according to HPI's January report.
Dentists cited other challenges, including the performance of the U.S. economy (13%), maintaining patient volumes (13%), and maintaining production and cash flow (12%), according to HPI.
In January 2022, about 91% of dentists reported that it was extremely or very challenging to hire dental hygienists compared to about 94% in January 2023. About 85% reported that it was very or extremely difficult to hire dental assistants in January 2023, which is down slightly from about 87% in the previous year, according to the results.
"By no means is the shortage over," according to the HPI. "Dentists continue to say recruitment is extremely challenging."
In 2023, 72% of dentists reported that they plan to raise fees, and 42% expect to hire more staff. About one-third of dentists reported dropping out of some insurance networks, while about 13% expect to sell their practices or retire.
Are dental practices busy? Unfortunately, appointment schedules have not reached 100%. In January 2023, practices were 86% full.
"Busyness has remained stable since March 2022," according to the HPI report.
Patient no-shows, cited by 84%, and late cancellations, cited by 45%, remained the most common factor for unfilled practice schedules in January. Other factors, including trouble filling vacant staff positions and not enough patients making appointments, were cited as reasons for practices not being completely full.
"Trouble filling vacant staff positions is a factor preventing appointment schedules from reaching 100% for about three in 10 dentists, while short-notice cancellation was selected by about 8 in 10 dentists," according to the report.