Wednesday, May 09, 2012

American Dental Association: Dentist Incomes Are Falling

According to a new ADA study.

US dentists' incomes have been dropping steadily since 2005, mainly because Americans are using less dental care, according to a report published in the May issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association.

"That was one of the surprising results," lead author Marko Vujicic, PhD, an American Dental Association (ADA) economist, told Medscape Medical News.

Independent general practitioners' average real net income peaked at $217,850 in 2005 and fell to $192,680 in 2009, the most recent year for which data are available, according to researchers for the ADA. Before that, dentists' incomes had gone up almost every year since 1981, they said.

Dr. Vujicic and colleagues found a number of factors that helped explain the change in income, including a lower portion of the population getting dental care, fewer dental visits per patient, an increase in the number of dentists per capita, an increase in expenses for dental practices, and a lower percentage of billings collected.

The researchers focused on independent general dentists, who make up the vast majority of dentists in the United States.

The authors write that they drew on several sources for these findings. Information about dentists' real net income was derived from the ADA's annual Survey of Dental Practice, a random sample of about 4000 to 7000 dentists in private practice. They used statistical methods to make sure that the results were not skewed by trends in demographic factors such as age, sex, geographical region, and location (urban or rural).

They also drew on US Census Bureau data to find out whether the number of dentists was changing in relation to the general population, and they used the Medical Expenditure Panel Surveys from the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to calculate the percentage of the population who had seen a dentist each year.

No real surprise here and I would say the income propsects for American dentistry is guarded for the next few years.

Many states, including California  have cut back on Medicaid benefits for poor patients. Couple this with a declining private economy with the concomitant cutback of private dental insurance benefits, you have a perfect storm for declining incomes.

Private dental office overhead costs are high and with increasing regulation and taxes, net income may continue to fall.

What is the solution?

A growth oriented economy, including lower corporate and small business taxes will rise all ships in this economy.

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