HPI: Patient confidence in returning to the dental office increases

Consumer confidence in returning to the dental office hit a new high, with 88% of respondents reporting that they have already been back or are ready to go, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute’s latest data from a poll conducted the week of Jan. 18.

The results are presented in a webinar. Key takeaways from the poll include:

  • Recovery and renewal: As of the week of Jan. 18, patient volume was estimated at 80% of pre-COVID-19 levels, on average. Staffing in dental offices was at 99% of pre-COVID-19 levels and four out of five employee dentists were being paid fully.
  • Financial sustainability: Over the past month, nearly a third of dentists had raised fees. Others responded to the financial challenges of practice ownership by taking out loans, reducing their dental team hours and changing suppliers. Retirement rates have not changed due to COVID-19.
  • Vaccine issues: Dentists are eager to be vaccinated. Dentists report they believe other members of the dental team do not have as much confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine. The majority of dentists report they are receiving questions about the vaccine from patients and believe this is an important conversation to have with patients. The majority of the public would be interested in getting vaccinated at their dentist’s office if available, but they are split on whether dentists are a trusted source for vaccine information.
  • Consumer sentiment: It is unlikely the remaining 12% will get back to the dentist before COVID-19 is under control.
  • Outlook for 2021: The sector has recovered nearly fully in terms of hiring and employment. Patient volume has recovered to the 80% range compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. Patient volume still has upside growth potential, but this is crucially tied to vaccine rollout. Based on this, full recovery is not anticipated until the summer or fall.

HPI launched its COVID-19 economic impact tracking poll on March 23, 2020. Dentists were also asked to join a panel in which they complete a monthly poll. In this latest wave, a nationally representative sample of over 2,700 dentists responded.

Webinars on previous data are available on the ADA YouTube channel.

Links to reports, slide decks and an interactive data dashboard are available at

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