Dental spending remains sluggish five years after the economic recovery, according to a new research brief by the ADA’s Health Policy Institute. The amount of empty chair time coupled with a wave of new dental graduates mean dentists’ earnings will stay sluggish and low for some time to come.
“Dentistry is a profession that is rocky and unpredictable right now,” stated, Graig Presti, CEO of Local Search For Dentists®.
The decline in the average dentist’s net income, which began in the early 2000s, is attributed to a steady decrease in dental care among adults and shows no sign of changing any time soon. The research predicts a “new normal” in dental spending, demand for dental care and dentist earnings.
Lower dentist income reflects stagnant wages
Although U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) rose 6.5% from 2009 to 2014 and the economy is clearly recovering, average household incomes have increased by only 1%.
While the U.S. economy is in recovery, household incomes are not, and people are hoarding cash as a fail safe against uncertainty.
Average incomes dropped significantly for all general practitioners since a peak of $219,378 in 2005. Dentist incomes have decreased steadily since 2009.
It is clear that dentists’ average net incomes are not recovering with the rebound in the U.S. economy.
Many dentists “not busy enough”
The number of general practitioners who said they were “not busy enough” changed slightly, declining from 36% in 2013 to 34% in 2014. Solo general practitioners reported the most empty chair time, with 40% indicating they weren’t busy.
More new dentists graduating
Adding to the impact of decreased dental spending on incomes is the wave of newly minted dentists looking for jobs. Recent years have seen a stagnation of dental spending, an increase in the number of dentists, and, as a result, stagnant dentist earnings.
Affordable Care Act’s Impact
There is “significant uncertainty” in the dental economy. Demand for dental care will continue to be low and dental spending will not return to historic highs.
The dental sector is entering an era of stagnant to lower dental spending and an increasing supply of dentists, this will have dramatic implications for the bottom line of dental practices
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