An interesting article titled “Solving dentistry’s ‘busyness’ problem” appears in the August 2015 edition of JADA and written by Marko Vujicic. The author states that nationally (U.S.) around 1 in 3 dentists say they are not busy enough. This differs by state and whether or not the dentist accepts Medicaid.
The author states that the number of working age adults who have seen a dentist within 12 months has been declining over the past 10 years. In addition, inflation adjusted dental spending has been flat for several years. So the demand for dentistry is declining. The author also states that the number of dentists has increased over the last 10 years. So decreasing demand and increasing supply creates a problem for dentistry.
Even so the author feels that dentist utilization by seniors will increase over the coming years and dentist utilization by children will also increase over the comings years due health benefits created through the Affordable Care Act. The author then says that it is possible to try to increase the demand for dentistry. The perceived value of dentistry can be affected through the person who visits the dentist, through the employer who provides dental benefits, through government agencies who decide dental benefits for programs such as Medicaid and Medicare, and also through potential sources of referrals in the health care system.
For patients much of the reason for going or not to the dentist is coming from the cost and the perceived value. For employers, the amount of employees that have dental benefits in the U.S. has been decreasing. The federal government feels that dental benefits are not essential as reflected in coverage in Medicare and Medicaid. However, they feel dental care for children is important.
The author feels that potential sources of referrals in the health care system could help drive additional working age adults to dental practices. The author states
“There are 19.4 million adults in the United States with private dental benefits who do not visit a dentist in a 12-month period but see a physician for a wellness visit.”
The author suggests that some nudging by the physician to a dentist could be important.
In my opinion, the article is a bit lacking on ideas of how to solve the busyness problem in dentistry. It seems to suggest that having other health care workers and facilities help nudge patients towards more dental visits is a good idea, but beyond that idea I don’t see any other real ideas in the article. In additional, getting dentists and others in health care to collaborate could be a challenge.