Despite what many of you told us last in a survey
last fall of how the economy was affecting your practice, Time magazine today published
Dentists: Smiling in the Face of a Recession."
According to Sageworks, a research company that tracks the private
sector, dental margins rose 1.7% between 2007 and 2008. Time reporter Sean Gregory
Dentists note that patients who receive no or limited
insurance tend to skip cleanings and other dental maintenance
during tough times as they look to save a few bucks. But dentists
pick up even more revenue later on. Patients who've skipped
check-ups now have achy teeth, and have no choice but to undergo a
more expensive procedure.
And the economic gloom weighing on most of us? Some say there is an
upside for dentists:
[I]nsured patients want to hit the chair while they're
still lucky enough to have the insurance. "We're seeing that a lot
of folks are fearful of losing their jobs," says Rick Willeford,
founder and president of the Academy of Dental CPAs, whose members
provide accounting and tax prep work for some 7,000 dentists across
the country. "So they want to use their benefits. That has helped
keep revenues strong."
But according to anecdotal reports in
Robert Mitchum's Feb. 12th article
in the Chicago Tribune,
dentists say the demand for paid dental services have made steep
decline, resulting in staff layoffs, and shifting the need for care
to the already overburdened public health dental clinics. The wait
for appointments at one clinic has grown to five months.
There does, though, seem to be one unexpected bright spot: the
surprising resilience of cosmetic dentistry. The Time
article finds it in the
success of Snap-On
. Our own survey
of metro Chicagoans
earlier this month found that nearly the
same number of respondents (14%) said they planned to undergo
cosmetic dental treatment in 2009 as those that said they underwent
a cosmetic dental procedure in 2008 (12%).
Of course, more
than half of you told us
patients were delaying or canceling
plans for cosmetic procedures.