How busy are dentists? The answer may surprise you.

Dental Team Masks

About one-third of dentists in the U.S. are either too busy to treat every patient who requests care or clinicians are treating them all but are overworked, according to the latest data from the ADA's Health Policy Institute (HPI).

However, another third of dentists reported not being busy enough and could have treated more patients, and the remaining one-third are treating all patients and aren't overworked, according to responses collected March 26 to April 1 from 915 dentists in private practice. Additionally, levels of busyness affected how long new patients had to wait for appointments for the first quarter of 2023.

In March 2024, the average wait time for new patients for initial appointments was about 14 days. This wait was down from 19 days in March 2023 and the peak wait time of nearly 23 days in June 2023, according to the HPI.

Furthermore, recruitment may play a role in patient wait times since dentists continue to struggle with hiring dental hygienists and dental assistants.

The number of dentists polled reported that they were actively recruiting dental hygienists and dental assistants, which remains the same in 2024 as it was about two years ago. Dentists continue to find hiring "extremely challenging, although to a lesser degree compared to one year ago," according to the poll results.

Looking ahead to the next six months, more than half of dentists responded that they are very or somewhat confident in economic conditions related to their dental practices, the sector of dentistry, and the U.S. economy, according to the HPI.

Meanwhile, confidence in their dental practices and the dental care sector has remained fairly steady, with 65% reporting being very or somewhat confident in their dental practices, and 58% reporting feeling the same about the dental sector.

On the other hand, dentists' confidence in the U.S. economy has been trending upward since early 2023. About 39% reported that they were very or somewhat confident in the economy in the U.S., according to the results.

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