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Two-thirds of US dental offices now closed, Baird survey shows

By Jeremy Booth, DTI
April 06, 2020

NEW YORK, U.S.: Two in every three dental offices in the U.S. have closed their doors temporarily owing to the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, according to the third weekly survey of U.S. dentists that Baird Equity Research has conducted since the drastic escalation of the outbreak in the country. Office closures have increased and patient volumes have declined, but there are positive signs that at least some of the cascading figures in dental demand are showing signs of bottoming out.

Baird has surveyed the same group of U.S. dentists weekly since March 12, and 94 dentists responded to the most recent survey that was conducted on March 26. Of the respondents, 67% have now closed their dental offices. One week earlier, on March 19, 60% of 91 respondents said that they expected to close their offices for at least one week. Just 4% reported expected temporary closures in the first survey of 137 dentists that was conducted on March 12–13.

On average, respondents expect that their dental office will be closed for a period of 4.5 weeks.

The survey results indicate that dental practices on the West Coast were more likely to have closed—84% of respondents from this region reported closures. The second-highest percentage was in the New England area, where 78% of respondents’ practices are now closed. Practices in the South Atlantic and Mountain regions were less likely to have closed, and around 40% of respondents in these areas have reported closures.

Dental clinic closures mean fewer patients and less spending

Dental office closures are naturally having a big impact on patient volumes. The average contraction in patient volumes reported in recent weeks by respondents was 63.6%. This was up from 10% one week earlier. Nearly half of all respondents reported a drop of 80–100%, and the declines were steeper for dentists based on the West Coast and on the East Coast, where SARS-CoV-2 infection rates are higher.

Baird analysts believe that the near 64% decline in patient volumes is the first fairly accurate measurement of the current trend of patient volume declines at U.S. dental practices.

Baird has had to adapt its normally quarterly survey in order to accurately gauge the unprecedented circumstances. Previously, the most extreme drop in patient numbers that respondents could select was a drop of 20% or more. In the latest survey, the options ranged from no decrease in patient numbers to a drop of 100%. Its analysts believe that the near 64% decline in patient volumes is the first fairly accurate measurement of the current trend of patient volume declines at U.S. dental practices.

Dental Tribune International reported last week that Baird’s survey results indicated a significant drop in spending by U.S. dentists that could amount to $1.4 billion—almost half of the annual value of the domestic dental market. Indicators of a decrease in yearly spending by dentists have been stable across the last two surveys. “We’d consider this a modest positive, as at least some negatives across the industry may be showing signs of bottoming,” the bank’s analysts wrote in the March 26 results.

Baird now assumes that the market will decline by 70–75% in the latter part of the first quarter and that this decline will continue throughout the second quarter before lessening in the third quarter.

General dental practitioners made up 90% of the respondents, and 59% of all respondents work in a single-dentist practice; 22% work in a practice with two or more dentists and 19% work in a practice with three or more dentists. Dentists working in the East Coast area made up 36% of respondents; 26% work in the West Coast/Mountain region area and 38% work in the Central states.

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