Financial Crisis dawns upon Dentists due to the Coronavirus

The situation is expected to become even worse as the second wave of coronavirus is hitting the nation.

 (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

1. Covid-19 pandemic has created a financial crisis for dentists all over the United States. Dental offices are in a dire state and are being forced to shut down due to business loss, resulting in an acute cash-flow shortage. The dental industry employs a large number of Americans who serve hundreds of thousands of dental offices all across the USA.

2. Since all dental treatments and procedures require a physical presence of patients and doctors in close proximity, not many patients visit dentists due to the fear of contracting the virus. Less important procedures like teeth cleaning and annual dentist check-ups have nearly vanished.

3. Despite a low footfall, the overhead costs like staffing and equipment costs have not come down. If a dental office was earlier serving twenty patients a day, and only five patients during the pandemic, the cost of operating the business remains nearly the same.

4. The extra expense to provide PPE kits, sanitizers, and other personal safety equipment for protecting staff, patients, and the dentist himself. Most dentists are eating up their cost rather than passing it along to their fearful patients.

5. Due to a sharp drop in business, many dentists are now being forced to dig deeper into their savings or take loans to keep the business alive.

6. Most dentists have drawn student loans, and repaying them has become a challenge because money is not coming in at the desired pace. Interest is mounting on those unpaid or underpaid installments.

7. Dentists are obliged to fulfill their long term office-rent lease commitments. They also must make uninterrupted payments towards dental malpractice insurance and annual maintenance contracts of their expensive dental equipment.

8. Several patients who had received treatment earlier the pandemic had agreed to make payment in installments. Many patients have started to default on their installments because they have lost a job or are themselves facing a financial crunch; this results in reduced cash flow for the practice.

9. To recover money from delinquent accounts, dentists are increasingly hiring dental collection agencies, which of course is not cheap. Collection agency services come with fees ( either flat fees or contingency fees). Even collection agencies are unable to recover much money if the debt is over one year old.

10. To implement social distancing laws, some dental office staff are being forced to work from home. This itself slows down the process because most dentists still have paper-based files kept in their office to refer to check detailed billing and treatment that the patient has received in the past.

11. Many patients have lost dental insurance due to extreme pain; they are forced to visit a dentist. They usually do not have money to pay the entire cost of treatment at once. To prevent business loss, dentists put patients in an installment plan, knowing that several of these patients will not pay and would also have to be assigned to dental collection agencies.

12. Elderly patients, who are the prime money makers for dentists, are worst affected by a coronavirus. Elderly patients are avoiding dental visit unless their dental issue becomes dire.

13. Dentists have no hope of receiving any relief package from the government.

14. Many dental practices have started to offer discounts to patients during this time, causing revenue loss for other dentists.

15. Medical collection agencies can do credit reporting, but most doctors avoid this tactic for their patients.

The list goes on. The situation is expected to become even worse as the second wave of coronavirus is hitting the nation. With liabilities mounting and cash flow getting tighter by the day, dental offices find it hard to remain in business. Even the collection agencies are surprised to see a large number of dentists who have permanently closed down are merely contacting them to collect money from old-unpaid bills. Some dentists who were approaching the retirement age have decided to wrap up their operations prematurely.