The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of our lives. Whether you work in a medical field or were flipping burgers, Covid-19 had a part to play in people examining what is important to them. So, it is not a surprise that dentists are seeing a few changes of their own. What are some of these changes, and how are they going to affect both dentist and patients alike? Let’s figure it out by looking at a few updates since things are opening up.
Dental Offices are Pandemic-Proof
Dental offices are much like a doctor’s office in several ways. Their job often revolves around mitigating the threat that blood or saliva can pose. Bodily fluids can carry disease and harmful bacteria. So, one would think that the rate of Covid-19 would be high among dentists and their employees. Except, that is far from the case. Compared to other healthcare avenues, dentists are the least likely risk for contracting and spreading Covid-19.
For example, the President of the American Dental Associationmade an announcement in June 2021, stating that dentistry is “largely exempt” from new OSHA standards that were put in place to combat Covid-19. Why is that?
It’s because during and after the pandemic, dentists already had strong measures put in place to combat infection in their offices. In fact, they are doing so well that they rarely need interference with safety regulations. The ADA published a study that reports that less than 1% of dentists were found to be COVID-19 positive. This is far less than other healthcare professionals, such as nurses, hospice workers and doctors.
Dr. Edgar Herrera Sanches, an infectious disease specialist, shows little surprise. “[Dentists] already do a lot of things that prevent the spread of COVID. The dentist is already wearing a mask, already wearing eye gear, gloves, all those things, so his risk of him giving something to you would be very low.”
Because the average dentist knows already that the human mouth is a walking petri dish of germs and disease. They are already of the mindset of needing to protect themselves and their patients before Covid-19, because their job requires them to be mindful of saliva transmissible disease, such as HIV and hepatitis.
This means good news for patients that are worried about the possibility of getting sick while going to the dentist. Currently, it is much safer to go to a dentist’s office than it is to go to the E.R. Which also explains why patients are going to the dentist in droves.
The Rise of Post Pandemic Cosmetic Dentistry
Patients are flocking to the dentist more than they did pre-pandemic levels. Cosmetic dental treatments are in demand such as tooth whitening and full smile makeovers. This is a surprising turnaround compared to what happened just a year ago. Why is that? According to one dentist, he is saying the main reason that patients are coming to him is: “I’m not scared anymore.” But is it just the increase of vaccinations that are bringing people back to the dentist?
There is another explanation that seems more logical. According to NBC News, “As more Americans get vaccinated and state ease Covid-19 restrictions, social calendars are filling once again.” It turns out that there is an increased demand for grooming products. This is most likely the result of wanting to make a good social impression after being locked away for the better part of a year.
What makes this interesting is that dental services are top priority. According to the company SmileDirectClub, who sells cosmetic dental equipment, there is a 47% increase in sales. The reasoning behind this is simple. People are taking masks off. Because we have hidden away smiles for a year, people are eager to show them off at the end of the pandemic. It makes sense because along with our eyes; it is the top way in which people communicate. So, people want to feel better about themselves through giving their teeth a touch up.
While the trend isn’t expected to continue for a long period, this is an economic boost for those who work in the dental industry. But what about the people working in the dental field? Has there been any shifts with staffing, reception work, and other people who work in the dental industry?
Concerns Over Dental Practices Passing the Torch
Covid-19 brought change throughout most professions. Service workers are currently evaluating their positions and are leaving in droves. Office workers are asking for more remote options for their workplace. There has also been a lot of retirements across the board, and in dentistry, there is no exception.
There is an increased threat of expenses looming over established dental practices. While more people are demanding cosmetic dentistry, that does not change the fact that owning a practice has become more expensive. For decades the ADA measured the average overhead for a general dentist to be 70%. After Covid-19, the price of everything went up. PPE, quarantine, and retrofitting offices to handle aerosolization, has shot the overhead to above 80% for practices to break even.
According to Dentaleconomics.com, “We’d now have to work four out of five days to cover our new expenses. That would be 192 days for overhead and 48 days to use the remaining profit for our families, taxes, and retirement funds. We don’t know about you, but all the N-95-type expenses and up to 48 extra days of work to pay for them is not what any 60-plus-year-old dentists were planning on before Covid-19.”
There are also added barriers to up and coming dental practitioners, such as the need to gain new patients from dental service organizations. Dental offices that use contracted ‘in-network’ systems are far less likely to start their own practice from scratch, since they are seeing a 40-60% reduction in fees.
The proposed answer to these changes is for both older and younger dentists to team up with one another under the same practice. The younger dentist will increase the number of patients that will walk in the door, and will take on some of the workload that is also in-network. The older dentist will continue to stay out of network, and will give the younger one a chance at higher pay, and a chance to apprentice under a well-established practice.
From there, when the older dentist finally retires, the younger one will take the reins and the business will be in capable hands.
Bottom Line: Dentists are Seeing Changes in 2021
Whether we want to admit it, Covid-19 has and still is continuing to change us. How we work, our habits, our desires, and our goals have changed drastically before 2020 hit us with a sledgehammer. But the good news is that not all of these changes have to be a bad thing. One of the greatest gifts that comes with the human condition is the ability to adapt to new situations. And industries, that are run by people, have the choice to adapt to the new circumstances. It looks like dentists are among the top professions that seem to take these new obstacles in stride.