Practice consolidation continues, according to survey

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Practice consolidation continues, according to survey

A total of 414 practicing Canadian dentists responded to a recent survey conducted by the Dental Industry Association of Canada (DIAC). (Photo:

Thu. 16 August 2018


TORONTO, Ontario, CANADA: The fundamental shift in the makeup of the Canadian dental practice toward consolidation is continuing, according to results of the 22nd annual Future of Dentistry Survey of the Dental Industry Association of Canada (DIAC).

According to the DIAC, all of the following points may reflect on the impact of the current economic situation on the dental practice in Canada:

  • The trend toward increasing numbers of dentists in the practice continues, with 11 percent of practices with five or more dentists. This was 3.4 percent in 2016 and an average of 6.3 percent the past 14 years.
  • A growing percentage of respondents describing their location as urban (now 62 percent, as compared to 56 percent last year and 51 percent in 2016, an average of 53 percent over the past 10 years). Dropoff is in suburban locations (falling to 22 percent from 29 percent last year and an average of 25 percent over the past 10 years).
  • Practices with three or fewer operatories had been generally in steady decline since the survey began, a real drop of 40.2 percent since 1997.
  • 28 percent of respondents planning to add at least one operatory as opposed to 22 percent last year.
  • The number of hygiene days per practice is increasing overall (with more days being added by those who only had one or two per week previously) — 46 percent of respondents in 2018 had five or more hygiene days per week, as compared to 44 percent last year and the average of 38.6 percent the past 10 years).
  • At the same time, the average number of patients treated per day continues to decline. Unlike last year, where a higher number of specialists responded, the GP/specialist split on response returned to historical norms in 2018. On an overall basis, dentists treated 11 patients in an average day as compared to the average of 12.5 patients over the past 10 years. 89 percent stated they treated less than five patients a day (as opposed to 83 percent last year and an average of 78.6 percent over the past four years).
  • Reinforcing the 2017 results, dentists continue to move into multi-practice (group practice). While the majority (63 percent) of respondents stated they were in a solo practice, more than a third (34 percent) are now in a group practice — and these group practices are getting bigger, with 24 percent having five or more operatories (as opposed to 17 percent in 2017). While the two key advantages attracting those in a multi-practice structure were associate support (57 percent) and buying power (20 percent), “better hours for patients” had growing support this year with 12 percent of response. The majority of group practice respondents (63 percent) felt they offered a higher standard of care than a solo practitioner. However, a substantial 23 percent said they did not. This finding is reinforced by the response to the main drawbacks of a multi-practice (group practice) structure with 21 percent citing consistency of care (No. 2 response with conflict with management style No. 1 at 29 percent).

According to the DIAC, it is little wonder that “financial/paying bills/overhead” was the top challenge that respondents intended to address in 2018 (as well as the top metric for success in the opinion of 78 percent of respondents), with “getting more patients/keep busy” a close second. The majority (60 percent) of dental practices now offer patient financing in some fashion, reinforcing results from 2017 (almost one-half (45 percent) of respondents offered in-house financing while 15 percent used third party financing) as a way to get those patients.

Financial concerns also appear to have impacted the practice management C.E. activities of dentists. The top focus is on building “the numbers.” The highest rated practice management topics for 2018 involve building the business of the practice (ranked in order from highest: leadership team development; revenue enhancement/expense management; fraud protection; and communication/case presentation).

For the first time, social media was mentioned by over 50 percent of respondents as one of the most popular practice-building tools utilized, still second to “asking for referrals” but trending rapidly upward from 13 percent in 2012. This movement to online promotion mirrors where dental patients are telling practitioners they are getting information on dental treatment options. According to the survey, the internet achieved another all-time high rating and was ranked as the top patient source for the third straight year. This was followed by the more traditional sources of family members, friends, etc. and dentist/dental team presentations.

A total of 414 practicing Canadian dentists responded to this year’s survey, with a good proportional distribution across all regions of the country. Based on this response rate, overall 2018 survey results have an accuracy of plus r minus 4.7 percent, 19 times out of 20.

(Source: Twenty-Second Annual Future of Dentistry Survey Dental Industry Association of Canada / Eric P. Jones & Associates Inc.)

Canada Dental survey Practice management