Dental practices begin to re-open
Dental patient volumes have been increasing, although elective surgeries have been declining in some areas, possibly due to the rise in COVID-19 infections. Photo courtesy of iStock Photo.

The US dental industry has experienced multiple difficulties and resurgences over the course of this year. It is currently experiencing overall growth, despite struggling in some areas.

Across the US, patient volumes in dental practices are vastly lower than their norms. Patient volumes were at 28% less in the week of June 25th than they were in the same week of last year. This is likely due in part to individuals avoiding non-urgent dental care to avoid possible viral transmission. It is also likely due to the requirement of dentists to thoroughly sanitize their equipment between patients, reducing available time for appointments. In fact, dentists have been offering an average of 13.1 appointments per day, which is about 60% of normal.

The lowest patient volume was reported in a survey on April 9th, which found that US dentists had experienced an astounding -80.5% of regular patient volume. However, in recent weeks, patient volumes have been increasing. This may be surprising given the vast increase in COVID-19 infections in the US.

It appears that within this average increase in patient volume, some regions are increasing significantly more quickly than others. In the South Atlantic region, patient volume increased from -26% of normal to -17% in one week. In the New England and Middle Atlantic regions, it increased from -54% to -33% in one week.

Conversely, elective procedures have been declining in some states. Between June 18th and 25th, the number of dental offices not offering elective procedures rose from 4% to 8%. This could be one aspect of patient data that does reflect the rising number of COVID-19 infections.

In mid-May, 55% of dental practices did not offer elective procedures, meaning this number has greatly reduced since then, but the recent figures may lead one to think there is an impending second surge in restrictions. However, the 4% to 8% rise in offices not offering elective surgeries is within the poll’s margin of error, and only represents one week’s worth of change. In the context of the current pandemic, there are frequent and unpredictable changes, so this one week’s worth of data may not be accurately indicative of the future of the dental industry.

Via: Dental Tribune

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