Covid-19's Continual Impact on US Dentistry
In a recent article published by U.S. News & World Report, a new study goes into the impacts of Covid-19 on the general dental industry. Read on to find some interesting facts from the article (link located below).
From a recent ADA (American Dental Association) poll of dentists on the week of August 10th : 98.9% of dentists said their clinics were open with only 47.6% reporting they had "business as usual", and 51.3% saying they saw "lower patient volume than usual".
According to FAIR Health (an independent organization that contains the US's largest database of private medical and dental claims), dental service usage fell 75% in March 2020 and 79% in April 2020, on a year-over-year basis. As services started to reopen, there was a 27% drop in May and an eventual 1% increase in June. All states were impacted by this decrease in usage but the heaviest impacts were seen in 5 states within the Northeast and Midwest (in March and April). The ranking of some of the most commonplace procedures also changed, as an oral examination for a new or established patient went down from 8th/9th place to 10th/12th place. Data also suggests that a larger proportion of patients were going into the dental office for urgent or emergency-related issues than for routine examinations.
Image from FAIR Health via U.S. News & World Report
In addition, there was also a greater trend towards cavity/tooth decay-related visits to urgent care centers and emergency rooms in the US (from January/February 2020 to March/April 2020). Cavity/tooth-decay related visits to urgent care centers and ERs rose from the 5th most common diagnosis in these settings to the 4th most common (for the previously mentioned time period and in connection to dental-related diagnoses). Overall, these metrics point to potential changes in how patients were temporarily handling their dental health throughout the pandemic as well as a temporary change in the mindset towards dealing with normal, day-to-day dental care and appointments. While we can expect a gradual return to normal given the eventual prevalence of a vaccine and the potential introduction of permanent sanitary measures, it will be interesting to see the longer-term impacts from Covid-19 on dentistry going into 2021. New questions will certainly arise around patient comfort along with a renewed focus on overall non-Covid-19 related healthcare as the pandemic subsides.