Estimating determinants of dentist productivity: new evidence
Objective: Productivity (output per unit of input) is a major driver of dental service capacity. This study uses 2006-2007 data to update available knowledge on dentist productivity.
Methods: In 2006-2007, the authors surveyed 1,604 Oregon general dentists regarding hours worked, practice size, payment and patient mix, prices, dentist visits, and dentist characteristics. Effects of practice inputs and other independent variables on productivity were estimated by multiple regression and path analysis.
Results: The survey response rate was 55.2 percent. Dentists responding to the productivity-related questions were similar to dentists in the overall sampling frame and nationwide. Visits per week are significantly positively related to dentist hours worked, number of assistants, hygienists, and number of operatories. Dentist ownership status, years of experience, and percentage of Medicaid patients are significantly positively related to practice output. The contributions of dentist chairside time and assistants to additional output are smaller for owners, but the number of additional dentist visits enabled by more hygienists is larger for owners.
Conclusion: As in earlier studies of dental productivity, the key determinant of dentist output is the dentist's own chairside time. The incremental contributions of dentist time, auxiliaries, and operatories to production of dentist visits have not changed substantially over the past three decades. Future studies should focus on ultimate measures of output – oral health – and should develop more precise measures of the practice's actual utilization of auxiliaries and their skill and use of technology.