Economy Causing People to Skip Dentist

    By Marv Dumon | Small Business

    The U.S. economy is causing many families to eliminate dental checkups in order to save money.  The recession is also having an effect on the financial health of dental practices.

    More than one in three American adults (36 percent) has delayed or will delay dental care because of their current financial situation.  More than 80 percent indicated that they knew that delaying dental care would cost them more in the long run, according to a recent survey by Aspen Dental.

    In response to current economic realities, dentists are offering flexible payment options for prospects and clients in order to generate business.  Some business analysts believe they don’t have a choice since clinic will go out of business of they can’t generate enough revenue.  Thus, clinics are evolving into a financing business.

    Here are some examples:

    1. Some offices enable patients to apply for dental-theme credit cards, which is similar to interest-charging cards used by retailers.
    2. Other dentists are offering dental financing, which adjusts rates based on a patient’s credit rating.
    3. Offices are changing how treatment is delivered in order to accommodate limited financial budgets.  Some are developing a multi-step treatment plan that meshes well with payment plans.
    4. Due to the stiff competition, dentists are providing competitive rates for consumers that have access to pricing information on the Internet.
    5. Early adopters are incorporating cutting-edge technology into their treatments, some of which focus on cost-effective prevention.
    Economy Causing People to Skip Dentist image Dentist Commons Flickr 600x428Economy Causing People to Skip Dentist

    Credit: Commons/Flickr

    One example of a clinic adjusting to today’s economic reality is Las Vegas-based Haymore Endodontics.  Its dentists are allowing more insurance providers to provide coverage in order to maximize its share of the local market.  In essence, Haymore is removing as many reasons as to why someone can’t visit their clinic, especially since Las Vegas has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the country.

    A root canal can cost upwards of $1,000 to $2,000.  That’s a hefty expense for families who have seen one or more breadwinners in their household lose a job.

    Dr. Wyn Steckbauer, a dentist from Wisconsin, says that many people are avoiding dental care in this economy.  “Probably the number one reason is monetary, but from a lack of understanding that there are options available. More and more practices are making it easier to pay,” Steckbauer explains.

    Costs can vary at different offices due to differences in co-pays or deductibles.  The level of competition may advance medical innovation the next few years.  Technologies that can keep administrative and procedural costs could boost revenue for dentists looking to entice new patients with low prices.

    Financial institutions are also stepping in to help keep dental clinics afloat.  In April, IBC Bank introduced new commercial loans designed to meet the financial needs of clinics.  “IBC Bank’s Dental Finance Group . . . [can] provide up to 100 percent financing and make credit decisions based on cash flow instead of a practice’s underlying assets,” said IBC Bank-Oklahoma Senior Vice President Andy Levinson.

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