Insider Perspectives: State of the Dental Industry

What’s really happening in dentistry and what trends you should pay attention to.

Updated 6/30/20

Our industry is in a state of flux that surpasses any other time in dental history. It can be a tough time to be a dentist or dental team member; however, it is possible to overcome obstacles and make this year the best your practice has ever seen. The best thing you can do to prepare for the future is to understand what’s really happening in dentistry and what trends you should pay attention to.

Dental teams are changing

According to the American Dental Association, in 1950, there were approximately 155,000 people working in the dental practice, which included dentists, hygienists, assistants, front desk personnel, and other team members. At the time, just over 50 percent of these individuals were dentists. By the time 2012 arrived, the total number of dental personnel had skyrocketed to almost 1 million. While the number of dentists has remained relatively steady, the proportion of team members to dentists has grown exponentially.

What does this mean for you? Invest some more time in leadership so that you can lead these new team members who are driving your practice toward either success or trouble. You set the tone for your practice so invest in yourself and see the rewards pay off.

How much are dentists working?

According to the ADA Health Policy Institute, in 1990, general practitioners worked on average 1807.8 hours per year. Based on eight-hour days, that’s 225.98 days per year. That has decreased dramatically. In 2014, general practitioners worked, on average, 206.41 days per year. Some of the reasons for this are more experienced dentists moving to part-time roles, younger dentists entering group practices, dental practices being open fewer hours, and more dentists wanting to focus on family and non-dental priorities.

Could your practice benefit from a split schedule and dentists sharing hours? Perhaps. It may fit your schedule better and offer more opportunities for patients to visit your practice when it’s best for them. Flexibility for both employees and patients will play a bigger role in your staffing decisions.

Insurance impacts are immense

Dentists are feeling the effects of changing plan designs and consumer behavior. Increased frustration and extended time before retirement are a direct result of these external market forces. Expect stricter plan designs in the future along with an increase in documentation requirements. The quality of your documentation will drive your revenue in the future. With upcoming diagnostic coding changes that will affect the general dentist, forward-thinking teams will start preparing now by inspecting and improving their systems.

Changes are in process now that require a watchful eye on your practice. Being in the dental business requires awareness, flexibility and optimism. Success will come to those who can balance all of this!

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Read the Business & Team Management articles in the articles archive for the latest advice and news about the industry.

By Teresa Duncan, MS FAADOM and Kevin Henry, Co-founder,

With over 20 years of healthcare experience, Teresa addresses topics such as Insurance Coding, Office Manager Training and Revenue Growth and Protection. Her memberships include the National Speakers Association and the Academy of Dental Management Consultants. She was recently named one of the Top 25 Women in Dentistry. Teresa received her Master’s Degree in Healthcare Management.

An advocate of today’s dental assistant, Kevin Henry speaks to dental audiences across the nation on topics that empower dental assistants, helping them recognize the leadership role they hold in the practice. Kevin is the former managing editor of Dental Economics and currently serves as the co-founder and thought leader for

Published as part of a collection of key takeaways from the 2017 Business of Dentistry Conference, along with:

Originally published in Dentrix Magazine, Winter 2017