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Permanent link  Perception vs Reality: Just how much is the economy hurting dentistry?


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 suggests:

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 Smiles. 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.


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