On March 18, 2020, we surveyed our Student Loan Planner community. I didn’t expect to receive over 4,000 responses, over 500 of which were from dentists and dental specialists.
We surveyed that same group again in April and again in mid May to see how their responses changed over 30 days and 60 days.
Based on our data, the dental profession is the hardest hit financially of any graduate level profession by the Coronavirus.
Most offices closed, but we’re seeing reopening in some states. Associates being paid on a percentage of revenue might not have earned anything. Some owners had trouble paying their staff.
Our results show that the financial crisis faced by dentists deepened in April, but dentists are beginning the long process of economic recovery in May.
How Do Dentists Compare to Other Professionals in This Recession?
The NY Times reported that dentists have among the highest exposure to diseases and proximity to others of any profession.
Dentists by and large are not deemed “essential workers” in most states. Many have complied with mandatory orders to shut down except for emergency procedures.
While this has allowed some dentists to maintain some level of income, it’s clear that most have lost their incomes completely.
The good news is that dentists reporting their incomes have gone away completely dropped significantly from April to mid May.
Our readership is younger and is less likely to own a dental practice than dentists overall. As we’ll see later, this likely means drops in incomes across all dentists during the pandemic were even worse than what we reported here.
What About Incomes for Dental Specialists?
In the words of one endodontist (root canal specialist) that I spoke with this week, he said that he’s still seeing the most extreme cases because of their level of pain.
Patients with problems that require immediate attention are putting off procedures to a future date, or their dental specialist is making that decision for them.
Initially it seemed like general dentists would be impacted at a much higher level. However, we’re seeing a convergence of income loss where half of all specialists have lost their incomes completely, a figure similar to that of general dentists.
Of course, more urgent fields like endo probably are fairing better than more elective specialties like ortho, but clearly specialists overall have been severely impacted.
Slowly, we are seeing improvement among incomes for specialists in May.
Dentist Income Loss by State
Initially, dentists working on the coasts took the biggest hit.
Now we’re seeing states like Texas and Florida enforce shut downs and dentists nationwide feel the pinch.
Dentist Income Changes by Time in Profession
Tenured dentists had it even tougher than younger dentists financially, but now we’re seeing an equalization among practice owners versus associates.
That said, that difference was more pronounced near the beginning of the COVID crisis.
Initially, most DSO employers seemed content to draw down reserves to keep their workforce intact. Then even high producing associates could not be sure their incomes would remain.
Initially, we saw dentists who own their own practices face steeper income losses than associates overall, but that difference is less pronounced now than it was previously back in March.
Dentists Want to Reopen the Country Much Sooner than Other Healthcare Professionals
In our April survey, 81% of dentists had experienced a severe income loss. Only 21% of physicians had experienced the same.
56% of dentists reported losing their incomes entirely while only 1% of physicians reported the same.
Physicians and dentists face similar risks for COVID-19 exposure. In fact, some physician specialties might even face less risk of COVID exposure than general dentists.
Hence, you can really see the economic pain in dentistry to see so many dentists wanting to reopen the country despite risks to their personal health.
When we asked if the country should reopen immediately in April, very few dentists agreed. Now a plurality chose that answer for reopening the country. The longer the income losses go on, the less support there is for keeping the country closed down among dentists.
Getting Help as a Dentist During the 2020 Economic Crisis
Clearly dentists need help financially. The data from our community of readers shows a much higher rate of financial loss compared to other professionals with similar levels of education.
Additionally, seeing that older dentists seem to be suffering more might imply that practice owners in particular are in significant distress in this business environment where they cannot perform elective procedures in many states.
If you have student loans, we can help with that, even though Congress appears to be making a plan to pause student loan payments for several months.
If you need financial assistance during this time, I’d highly suggest contacting your congressional representative and let him or her know what you’re dealing with as a dentist.
Are you surprised by these results? Want to see other demographic data from our study? Let me know below. Feel free to share what you’re going through right now too if you’re a dentist.