HPI: Dentists working harder than ever with fewer returns

Dentist Assistant Patient

Dentists may be busier than ever and working more hours, but that in no way means they are bringing home more cash. Instead, their expenses were accelerating so fast that they made less income in 2022, according to new data from the ADA Health Policy Institute (HPI).

After adjusting for inflation, the average net income of general dentists dropped by 7% between 2021 and 2022, according to the data released August 4.

“Practice expenses are increasing faster than revenues, driving the decline in average net income,” according to HPI.

Data from the HPI Survey of Dental Practice and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics were used to compile the report. To get a better financial picture for the dental field, income, revenues, and expenses were adjusted for inflation using the All-Item Consumer Price Index and valued to 2022 dollars.

General dentists’ median net incomes fell from $216,077 during 2013 to 2017 to $200,326 during the period between 2018 and 2022.

In the 2018 to 2022 time frame, practice expenses were $582,730, which was 8% higher than the 2013-2017 period, when they were $540,928. From 2018 to 2022, practice revenues were $757,549, which was about a 2% increase from $741,195 during the period of 2013 to 2017.

In addition to spending more than they are bringing home, more dentists than ever reported feeling “too busy” or overworked. In 2022, 37% of dentists reported feeling too busy or overworked, which is a slight decrease from the 38% who reported this in 2021. However, the last time dentists reported feeling even close to this burdened was in 2017, when 32% said they felt overburdened, according to the data.

The hours clinicians are clocking may be what made them feel worn out. On average, general dentists worked 1,758 hours in 2022, which was about 4.5% more hours than the average 1,683 hours they worked from 2000 to 2019. The increase in 2022 is approximately equivalent to working an extra 1.5 hours per week compared to 2000 to 2019, according to the results.

In 2020 when practices were closed due to COVID-19, dentists worked an average of 1,435 hours. As dentistry began to recover from the pandemic in 2021, dentists worked an average of 1,691 hours.

“Taken together the latest data suggest continued ‘margin compression’ in the dental sector,” according to HPI.


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