The Impact of Economics
GREG FINLAYSON, PhD
Impact Economic Consultants
Economics is about making decisions on how to use
limited resources. Economics affect a dentist’s decisions
about staffing, equipment, materials, working hours, and
more. Patients also make economic decisions about
dentistry: if or when to see a dentist, whether to accept a
recommended treatment plan, and fundamentally, how much of
their limited money they choose to spend on dental care
versus groceries, rent or going to a movie.
Dentists work in isolated environments, with little
opportunity to know how things work in other dental
practices. Economic decisions are often dependent upon
limited information. The information required to make
decisions on everything from how many hours they work, to
staff compensation, to what they charge for a two-surface
composite restoration, is normally unavailable.
FILLING THE INFORMATION GAP FOR NOVA SCOTIA
The Nova Scotia Dental Association (NSDA) works for
dentists to fill this information gap. As a member service,
NSDA contracts with Impact Economic Consultants (Impact)
to support members in their economic decision-making.
Impact is a trusted source of information on staff wages,
suggested fees for procedures, and many other features of
the economic side of dentistry in Nova Scotia.
What’s unique about Impact’s information is that it’s 100%
Nova Scotia data. This is a good thing, because the economics
of dentistry varies greatly between provinces. It’s also
challenging – it means Impact is dependent upon Nova Scotia
dentists to participate in surveys so made-in-Nova Scotia
information can be produced.
SURVEYS: THE PULSE OF THE PROFESSION
On an ongoing basis, Impact invites Nova Scotia dentists to
participate in several surveys to provide crucial decision-making
- The yearly Procedure Frequency Survey tells us how many
times each procedure is performed, and what the average
billing is for the procedure. This allows us to monitor if the
Suggested Fee Guide accurately reflects changes in
services being offered and fees being charged by
dentists, and how the gross billings of dental practices are
changing over time.
The yearly Wage Survey asks dentists about the hourly
rates they are paying their staff, by position and years of
experience. Once aggregated, this information helps
dentists stay competitive with their compensation, helping
to attract and retain staff.
- Every two years, the Census Survey produces a snapshot
of the profession. This information is used to identify
trends over time, and to create weightings used in the
statistical analysis of other economic information that
- Every three years, we conduct an Economic Survey to
determine the cost-side of operating a dental practice.
Financial statements are aggregated to find trends in
expenses, allowing adjustments to the Suggested Fee
Guide that reflect the costs of operating a dental
practice. This survey also helps us understand the
various factors influencing the economic side of
PARTICIPATION IS CRUCIAL AND CONFIDENTIAL
Dentists who don’t respond to the surveys aren’t
represented in the aggregated results. NSDA’s Fee Guide
Committee makes real decisions based on the data Impact
receives from NSDA members. These decisions have an
impact on the economic decisions every dentist makes, from
the fees they charge, to the wages they pay, to whether
they hire another staff person. All data Impact receives is
treated as highly confidential. Only aggregated information is
reported, protecting the privacy of individual respondents.
Individual data is not shared with anyone.
The online wage survey is underway now, with notices
sent via email. In January, you’ll receive a package from
Impact with everything you need to participate in the
Procedure Frequency Survey. The Economic Survey will
next be conducted in Nova Scotia in 2021.
Remember, dentists participating in the surveys obtain a
personalized report showing how their practice compares
with others. This kind of information is not available
elsewhere and is a valuable piece of information giving you an
edge in economic decision-making. This is yet another
valuable member service provided by the NSDA.
Greg Finlayson is an owner and principal of Impact
Economic Consultants Inc. Bios and credentials of the
Impact Team can be reviewed at www.ImpactEcon.ca.