The rough economy has impacted countless of Americans over the past few years and have forced individuals to reevaluate their relationships with money. The results vary from industry to industry; coupon usage is up in retail, smaller homes are all the rage in the real estate industry and restaurants are offering bargain meal bundles to fill their empty tables. The reality is also impacting the dental care industry in a number of surprising ways.
Prior to the economic disorder, dental insurance was hugely popular, doctors were more popular than dentists and the Tooth Fairy was one generous pixie. Now, the dental industry (along with countless others) has been turned on its heels and the trends of yesterday have become permanently anchored in the past.
Once upon a time, dental insurance was a valuable benefit provided by employers to their workers. According to a 1989 study, dental care coverage was believed to be the greatest indicator dentist visits as those with the coverage had the ability to visit the dentist more frequently of (www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_183.pdf). The economy has changed both those norms.
According to Fidelity Investments' Consulting Services, employee, health coverage benefits cost employers approximately $5,000 to $15,000 per employee annually. Industry insiders suggest that dental care only comprises a 4 percent share of those costs. Depending on the policy, that can cost an employer $200 to $600 for dental care coverage per staff members and employers no longer are interested in paying those bills.
Research has indicated that the economic climate has forced employers to trim their budgets in order to maintain or increase their profit margins, sources indicate that 25 percent of companies surveyed had plan to pass the cost burden onto their hires (Society for Human Resource Management). Other options include 12.7 percent of companies no longer offering dental insurance as a perk (http://www.usatoday.com/money/workplace/2009-04-06-employers-cut-worker-benefits_N.htm).
Additional research into the topic has shown that for the typical consumer, paying for dental insurance out of pocket no longer makes economic sense, delivering the final blow to the dental insurance industry. Website, WorldDental.com recently analyzed the payment versus benefits of the average dental policy and according to their findings "...a typical dental policy will offer an annual maximum benefit of $1,350, it will offer 100% coverage for preventative care and diagnosis, 80% for maintenance and cleanings, 50% for basic restorative care (like fillings), 50% for oral surgery (like extractions) and root canal treatments, and 0% for cosmetic dentistry procedures," (http://worldental.org/dental-insurance/dental-insurance-worth-money/5012/). The result, hundreds of dollars of additional expenses on top of the coverage premiums plus long wait times to get the approval for the necessary dental treatments.
Since dental insurance is no longer chic, the relationship between coverage and preventative dental care is now in question. The previous thought on the matter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicated that approximately 45 million Americans do not have dental insurance coverage and "What makes this statistic...especially troubling is the fact that enrollment in a dental plan is the leading indicator of your ability to access dental care," (1800Dentist.com). New research has shown otherwise.
Findings released by the New York University Colleges of Nursing and Dentistry indicates that 20 million (six percent) of the nation's entire populous prefers visiting dentists for annual visits than a general medical providers. The results were generated from the compiled data of more than 31,200 adults who participated in the 2008 U.S. National Health Interview Survey. The findings showed that 26 percent of U.S. children did not visit a doctor but over one-third of them (approximately 7 million) of them did get to see a dentist at least once in that year. The results also showed that 25 percent of the nation's adults skipped the doctor, but around 13 million of them made it to the dentist at least one in 2008.
Not only are adults acutely aware economy, children losing their baby teeth are feeling it as well. For hundreds of years the Tooth Fairy has been replacing the discarded milk teeth of children with cold hard cash. It appears that the nymph is tightening her wallet.
The news came to light when comedian, Stephen Colbert discussed the "baby tooth economy" on a segment that originally aired in August, 2011. The story originated on News 12 Long Island (http://www.news12.com/home.jsp) and unearthed the fact that the tooth fairy is leaving an average of $2.60 per baby tooth, down from 2010's $3 average per tooth. Once Colbert crunched the numbers he determined that the average worth of a child's "mouth portfolio" now only totals $52. His advice to his own children was to diversify into tusks.
While dental care is essential to well being and general health, it is also an industry that responds to the economy at large. The changes impacting the industry today, will shape how citizens manage their dental health in the future and that is yet to be determined. Instead of leaving the fate of teeth to a prediction of a crystal ball, individuals are advised to be their best dental care advocate by practicing good oral hygiene, eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly. Those behaviors backed by regular dentist visits is a solid course of action for preventative dentistry. Individuals who need to find a dentist can all 1-800-DENTIST, 24/7 to get the name of a great provider, close to home.