The phrase ‘Strong and Stable’ probably hasn’t been used in many industries over the last twelve months, and before that may have been used as a stick with which to beat governments with, yet it would be a good summary of the results of a survey of the dental industry undertaken by Frank Taylor & Associates. As the restrictions of the last year are gradually and cautiously lifted, it’s natural that industries are preparing for what ‘new normal’ will look like and how they can be best prepared to meet the challenges it will bring.
Two thirds of practices reported that they are operating either at pre-COVID levels, or with only a small (less than 25%) reduction in activity, with a further 22% saying they were between 50 and 75% of pre-COVID volumes. It follows then that only 10% of practices reported a significant (i.e. more than 50%) drop in activity.
Amongst the new lexicon of terms we have learnt in the last twelve months is that of ‘accidental savers’, meaning those with disposable income who have not been able to spend at the levels or in the manner they would have wished. Around two thirds of respondents were of the opinion some of this excess ‘accidental’ savings would be spent in the dental sector, with more 75% seeing cosmetic dentistry as the area where demand would increase the most.
In terms of career strategy and long term investment and property decisions in the industry itself, nearly a quarter of respondents said they had plans to buy a practice in the next two to three years, with a further 10% saying they were giving the option serious consideration. This indicates a good level of confidence and buoyancy in the sector and bodes well for a healthy market in the near future. Following on from this, around 55% of respondents saw demand for practices in rural locations likely to increase as the need for many people to be 100% office based reduces (and will likely never return to pre-COVID levels).
One of the other features of the sudden change in working practices for many has been the proliferation of video-based meetings. Perhaps not surprisingly in an industry that is so reliant on face to face contact, there was more scepticism about the effectiveness of this medium in dentistry, with only around 10% saying this had definitely helped in advancing virtual consultations, and over 50% did not see it as any help at all in this area of work.
Perhaps most tellingly, the majority of respondents said they would still advocate dentistry as a profession. Given the unique challenges the industry has faced over the last year, this paints an encouraging picture of a sector that is well positioned for growth as we, hopefully, put the worst effects of the pandemic behind us.