10 Challenges faced by Dentists in the United States
Dentistry is a profession which requires a high level of precision with optimal skills and a heightened sense of empathy towards the patients. The market is shrinking by the day as there is an ever increasing influx of freshly graduated dentists in the already saturated market. With the changing dynamics of the industry, it becomes even more challenging for a dentist, to sustain in the market and to smoothly run his practice. This article tries to touch upon some of the major challenges that dentists face in the country.
1. Getting new patients
The primary objective of a dentist is to provide quality services to his patients and to acquire new patients through the goodwill he has created in the market. In a highly competitive market, it gets difficult for any dentist to retain the flow of patients into his office. It gets critical for him to take time out from his office routine and market his services on his own. This leaves him with little time for the practice itself which, over time, affects the quality of the service.
2. Raising the revenue
Over time, the overhead costs at the dental office shoot up and that calls for efforts to raise the revenue. In order to increase profits, the number of patients should increase and that requires money to be spent in the marketing of the services. With increasing footfalls, the quality of service deteriorates as the dentist is left with less time to give to each patient, which results in customer dissatisfaction. So, it’s a challenge for any dentist to manage his time between the optimum time he wishes to give to each patient and the time he uses for marketing.
3. Third party payment organizations
This topic received the highest ranking in an extensive survey on the perception of Dental practitioners on the challenges facing the Profession, published by Dr. Gordon J. Christensen, founder and director of Practical Clinical Courses(PCC) in Utah. The limitations for fee settings which are determined by the third party payment companies, creates frustration within the dentist community. Third party payment companies providing benefits for services is not an issue, but the area of concern for the dentists is, them setting and dictating fees for the services for which they don’t offer benefits. This gets tricky and challenging at the same time for dentists as sometimes it gets difficult for them to generate revenue at current costs.
4. Hiring the right dental staff
The ever changing standards of dentistry require a dentist to focus on honing his skills with the changing dynamics of the industry and this requires the support of the right staff at his dental office to take care of the day-to-day operations. The services of a right staff makes work easier for the dentist. It is a challenge for dentists to find the right dental staff who would be reliable and efficient enough to run the practice smoothly.
5. Upgrading to the latest equipment
Advances in technology have greatly transformed our lives in every sphere and dentistry is no exception. The well-informed patients of modern times want to be expansively treated with the latest technology and equipment. Most dentists do not have enough funding to regularly upgrade their offices with the latest equipment and this results in less number of patients visiting them for treatment.
6. Corporate dentistry firms providing services
Studying dentistry is so expensive in the country that newly qualified dentists are forced to start their practice with corporate dentistry firms to pay off the high student loans. These firms are like super stores which provide all the services under one roof. In recent times, such firms have made inroads even in smaller towns which makes it difficult for private dentists to run their own practice.
7. Aging population of the U.S.
The American population is aging. It is expected that over the next 40 years the number of Americans aged 65 and above will more than double to nearly 80 million by 2040. In old age, the condition of teeth deteriorates and the structure of jaw gets complex. The nerves in the teeth also become smaller making the teeth less sensitive to cavities and other dental problems. Dentists need to be updated in their skill set to deal with cases involving such complexities in dental problems and with more patients with such dental problems coming to them for treatment, it becomes challenging for them to give adequate time to deal with the complexities of their dental problems while managing other hectic affairs of the office.
8. The changing demographics
The United States has the largest immigrant population in the world with more than 45 million foreign born people living in the country. The population of the U.S. is very diverse with almost all the ethnicities of the world represented among U.S. immigrants. Studies have shown that dental characteristics differ in all ethnicities. With the number of immigrants to U.S. increasing every year it gets challenging for the dentists to constantly update their skill set so as to be able to take care of the dental problems of the patients of all the ethnicities who come to them for treatment.
9. Insurance billing management
The whole process of getting the patient to the office and performing the required dental procedures along with managing the billing operation of every patient leaves little scope for the dentist to handle insurance billing management. Billing management requires ample time and a dedicated staff for filing claims. Improper filing of claims results in a high number of claim denials and an overall loss for the dentist. There are many billing companies offering their services to take care of billing management for the dentist. It is a challenge for dentists to find a credible dental billing and collection company to associate with.
10. Lack of support for dentists
Young dentists find it hard to establish their practice in the market. One of the reasons for this is lack of support from established practitioners to guide them in running the practice efficiently. Without proper guidance, they find it hard to manage the cash flow and earn regular profits.
The challenges discussed in this article are some of the major challenges that dentists in the country have to face but there might be so many of their concerns that might not have been touched upon.These challenges need to be addressed to stiffen the resolve of dentists and help them sustain their practices in the highly competitive market.