Warning: Statistical Nerdiness Approaching

Elisa Llodra Featured News

By Carrie Mauterer, D.D.S, CDA Editor
From the Fall 2022 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Dr. Carrie Mauterer

Take a walk with me and peek outside the four walls of your practice. It won’t hurt, I promise. It might even brighten your day.

During my moments between patient care, I really love pouring through articles on dental industry trends. Understanding the cyclical nature of our dental economy tends to soothe me when I feel like my practice trends aren’t performing as well as I would like.

I just finished reading through the “ADA’s State of the Dental Economy Q3 2022” (released in the first week of October). To save you some time, I’ll throw down some “CliffsNotes” for you:

Each quarter, the Health Policy Institute releases an update about the State of the Dental Economy. They use resources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the monthly polls from dental healthcare workers.

This quarter, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reported that dental spending is up a tick and is currently enjoying a 91.4% recovery from the start of the pandemic. Our country’s spending on physician services is back to 97.8%. Healthcare, overall, is reported to have recovered 100%. Dental industry trends tend to follow medical industry trends and we hope this will continue as we enter the fourth quarter and beyond.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the inflation rates of the overall economy to be at 8.2% while the inflation of dental services to be only at 4.7%. The ADA wrote, “Since early 2021, overall inflation has exceeded that of dental services, which has historically not been the case.” And true enough, when I looked at the line graph of overall economic inflation next to dental services inflation going back to 1996, it was incredibly rare to see overall inflation higher than dental. You might look at this anomaly with a glass half empty and say that the lag in dentistry inflation when compared to overall inflation is a problem. I like to flip that and remind myself that our 4.7% inflation rate is a higher inflation rate than we have seen since the 2008/2009 economy. As a 2005 dental school graduate, this is the biggest uptick of dental services inflation rates I have seen in my career.

Even with the near complete recovery of our industry and the highest inflation rate of dental services we have seen in a decade and a half, our dental colleagues remain fairly pessimistic about the dental industry. When asked how confident dentists were in the economic recovery of the following three areas the ADA State of the Dental Economy report stated:

  • Recovery of their practices (64% confidence rate)
  • Recovery of the dental care sector (56% confidence rate)
  • Recovery of the U.S. economy (27% confidence rate)

Interestingly, these numbers were actually up a bit from the all-time lowest confidence levels dentists shared in June of this year.

The reason why I love reading about the big picture of dentistry is because it helps me to feel like part of a bigger dental world. I practice in a solo dentist office environment and I often wonder if other dentists are going through the same things as I am. For example, I was feeling nervous because the amount of short cancels and no shows were rising too rapidly in my practice. I was starting to overthink it (like we always do as dentists) and wondered if we were doing something wrong. Then I read the ADA report and saw that 81.7% of the dentists who responded to the survey in September were going through the exact same thing.

So yeah, it helps to peek outside of your practice once in a while and see what our colleagues are talking about. It can also help to speak to someone outside of dentistry about your anxiety and worries. In short, it’s OK to talk about it. Especially now. Especially after reading how many of us are struggling with anxiety and depression.

The first ever study on the effect of the pandemic on the mental wellness of dental healthcare workers was released in July of 2022 by the ADA.

The one-year study conducted from June 2020 to June 2021, included 8,902 dental healthcare workers participating monthly in an anonymous longitudinal, web-based survey.

  • 7% of dental healthcare workers reported anxiety symptoms
  • 7% of dental healthcare workers reported depression symptoms
  • 3% of dental healthcare workers reported symptoms of both.

The ADA wrote, “Interestingly, dental healthcare workers reported lower rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than the general public, despite being on the front lines and providing oral healthcare during the pandemic,” says author Stacey Dershewitz, J.D., Psy.D., adjunct professor of clinical psychology and director of the Center Clinic at the George Washington University Professional Psychology Program. “As the pandemic continues, it is critically important that dental healthcare workers continue to develop their ability to recognize and address signs and symptoms of mental health conditions within themselves and their colleagues, promote healthy work environments, reduce the impact of stress on the profession, and make supports accessible to those who are struggling emotionally.”

The CDA launched its mental health wellness program in August. Through this program, all of our members can receive complimentary and confidential help for mental wellness. Even though dental healthcare workers are reporting less anxiety and depression than the general public I still worry about my brethren and sistren when I read that the 2021 Dentist Well-Being Survey reported that the percentage of dentists diagnosed with anxiety more than tripled in 2021 (compared to 2003). And that is just the number of people who were willing to talk about it. There are so many resources available to help us and the CDA is here to help guide you through it, judgement free. Just reach out and we can help.

There are plenty of positive trends to focus on and wonderful things coming our way in our careers. Join me for a few more walks and we will find comfort together in the cyclical trends of our industry. The tides rise and the tides fall and the only thing we have control over is whether or not we choose to enjoy each sunrise.

Remember, You are Worthy of Abundance.