By David Black, DDS, contributing writer

February 28, 2018 -- What is your net production per hour? How about for your hygienists? You might have a rough idea of these numbers, but knowing these data can help you pinpoint what's going right and wrong with your practice.

Most of us in dentistry have certain ideas about how dental hygiene services should be integrated into the practice of dentistry. But preconceived notions are just that, notions. I decided I needed to use facts instead to examine the state of hygiene and dentist production in the U.S.

Hourly production

David Black, DDS
David Black, DDS.

The average doctor in general practice had gross billings of more than $655,000 per year in 2016, according to data from the ADA's Health Policy Institute. If you dig a little deeper, you will find that the average practice has gross production of more than $800,000 per year.

Let's break that down a little further, using data compiled from Sikka Software's database of more than 13,000 dental practices in the U.S. The table below shows the average production per dentist and per hygienist per hour per practice over a seven-year period, from 2010 to 2016.

As the numbers show and other experts have noted, there's been a rebound in net production numbers for both dentists and hygienists, but the industry still lags behind the 2010 and 2011 results.

Net production per hour for U.S. dentists and hygienists, 2010-2016
Year Hygienist net production/hour ($) Dentist net production/hour ($)
2010 $77.40 $251.31
2011 $70.14 $233.43
2012 $58.58 $191.35
2013 $62.14 $191.66
2014 $62.27 $195.04
2015 $61.32 $205.57
2016 $63.61 $216.24

Practice profitability

Most experts agree that the total hygiene department production should be between 25% and 35% of total practice production to be profitable. For the sake of example, let's use the $800,000 figure cited above as the income needed for a practice to be profitable. Let's also say your hygiene department needs to produce 25% of that $800,000 ($200,000). Everyone's situation is different and your exact numbers will likely not be the same, so use this for illustration only.

“Adding more hygiene hours is not always the answer.”

According to Sikka Software, hygienists worked an average of 146.3 hours per month in 2010 and 173.6 hours per month in 2016. That's quite a jump, showing that many dental practices are understanding the importance of hygiene hours.

Using the monthly figures, hygienist production of $63.61 per hour for almost 174 hours a month totals a little more than $11,000 net production per month per hygienist.

Remember that every practice is different and, while hygiene is often the lifeblood of the practice, numbers will fluctuate in every practice and every state (and cities and regions within those states) will have different fees charged based on their locale and insurance schedules.

The biggest thing for any practice is to look at the numbers and see if your proportions match up. Is hygiene 25% of your practice right now? If it's more, do other areas need to be boosted? If it's less, would adding more hygiene hours or even a part-time hygienist help you reach those numbers (weighing expenses in there as well)?

Also remember that adding more hygiene hours is not always the answer. The practice must remember that, to be profitable, the net production per hour must be greater than the provider compensation.

Not only should your hygiene department produce 25% to 30% of production but the hygiene staff should be producing 2.5 times their compensation (salary, benefits, and employment taxes).

Make sure that you're not just adding hours to add hours. You're also making sure that those hours will actually be profitable.

David Black, DDS, has more than 40 years of clinical experience along with serving on state and community dental boards. He focuses on speaking and coaching through in-office consultation.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.

Copyright © 2018

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