This study was undertaken to quantify how the Great Recession impacted the demand for general oral health care and orthodontic care in the United States. The authors conducted an analysis to help dentists anticipate changes in demand for care during future economic downturns.
The authors analyzed Medical Expenditure Panel Survey data for the period 2003 through 2015. Data plotting for the various factors considered showed patient demand before, during, and after the Great Recession, including an indication of postrecession recovery. Statistical significance across time was determined using a χ2 test. The point estimates and statistical inferences took into account the complex survey design of the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey.
General dentist visits declined slowly and steadily during the Great Recession, reaching a low of 38.4% in 2010, and have not shown significant signs of recovery. Orthodontic visits also declined to an all-time low of 2.5% in 2010, although they have somewhat recovered. Out-of-pocket expenditures were lower in 2015 than in 2003 for general dental and orthodontic care.
The effects of the Great Recession resulted in a decrease in the demand for oral health care, differing for general oral health care and orthodontic care.
These findings, especially in combination with leading indicators for economic downturns, will allow dentists to better plan and use strategies for maintaining practice stability during periods of reduced demand for care.