The overall average for personal healthcare has risen much faster than the average for all consumer items, nearly quadrupling in the past 25 years. Whereas per capita spending dental costs have remained flat.
Coupled with the effects of inflation and population growth the general shift from institutional care spending toward professional services has created little to no increase in ones dental costs. Medical care is increasingly delivered in outpatient care settings, often in physician offices or surgical care centers, which can be seen in the above diagram crossing of the real spending trends for institutional care and professional services that occurred in about 2000. Unlike other professional services, dentistry has not gained from the shift toward outpatient/professional services, having remained flat in real per capita spending for the past 25 years. Thus, while prices for dental services have grown generally as fast as the average for all personal healthcare services, dentistry has neither lost nor gained real ground in per capita use.
Most dental coverage in the United States is obtained through employer-offered plans, and basic Medicare does not include such benefits. Seniors’ spending on dental care is, therefore, more sensitive to income than spending by younger age groups. Whether dentistry will continue to maintain its relative position in per capita utilization depends, at least in part, on how the baby boom demographics will impact dental care demand in the next two decades.
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Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328