Written by Erik K. Curtis, DDS, MA, MAGD and reprinted with permission from AGD Impact, October 2012. (c)Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. On the Web at www.agd.org. License #37166
America loves big business. Never mind the warnings of philosophers and other naysayers. For every Occupy Wall Street curmudgeon huddling under a leaky tent to protest stratospheric CEO incomes, a million of his compatriots get in line at the local Apple store to purchase the company's latest and greatest products. For every crusader decrying the ethics of the bottom line, an army of analysts crisply counters that an entrepreneurial, creative private sector is what makes this country great. For every science fiction movie featuring an evil corporation bent on taking over the world, there is a corporate cinema screening that very film. Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Media, even Big Chocolate: For most of us, big organizations mean the security of efficiency, reliability, consistency, and cost control.
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The number of large dental practices has risen 25% in just two years, according to the ADA, and although many of them have their own on-site laboratories, they often work with independent laboratories as well. In fact, nearly one-quarter of respondents to an LMT survey say they work with at least one of these large practices.
Although the technical day-to-day routine of working with large practices isn't much different than working with smaller practices, there are some differences from a business standpoint. For example, while members of a group practice sometimes contract with one laboratory, other times it's up to the individual doctors to choose their own laboratory and this can be a valuable source of referrals for laboratories.
"It's almost like free advertising when we start working with one of these dentists; word of mouth spreads through the practice and we end up getting more work from others in the group," says Eric Bone, AAA Dental Studio, Omaha, NE. "As the office grows,...
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The changing demographics of the dental field could bode well for laboratories. There are more general practitioners and prosthodontists, more dental consumers and fewer laboratories. In other words, the potential client base per laboratory is growing.
Here's a look at the shifting demographics between 1998 and 2011:
The number of laboratories declined 12.5%, from approximately 12,000 to 10,500. The number of GPs and prosthodontists increased 17%, from 133,623 to 156,011. This means the ratio of dentists to labs increased from 11:1 to 15:1.
The ratio of adult patients (20 years or older) to dentists increased from 1,441:1 to 1,466:1.
Further analysis of patients 45 years or older—the most likely sector of the population to receive restorative work—shows an increase of 36% during this timeframe. In 1998, there were 686 patients for every dentist; in 2011, the ratio was 796:1.
And going forward, it seems these trends will continue:
The dentist population is expected...
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Although large, professionally managed group practices still only represent a small segment (7 to 8%) of the dental profession, their explosive growth in the last few years indicates that the trend will continue. That means there's also a growing opportunity for dental technicians at these practices' on-site or centralized laboratories.
Given the size of the companies, many of these practices offer comprehensive benefits packages, training programs and opportunities for advancement that are often difficult to find in small, independent laboratories. It's also a great opportunity for technicians and dentists to work collaboratively with patients. "Our lead technicians often have an opportunity to meet the patient to look at a try-in or help select a tooth shape or size, for example," says Mike Thomas, Vice President of Laboratory Operations, Affordable Dentures Dental Laboratories (ADDL). "We like our technicians to think of their role as a partner in service, working together with the...
Between 1986 and 2001, seven dental schools closed their doors. However, in the past several years, that trend has reversed: To meet the growing demand for careers in dentistry, seven new predoctoral dental programs opened in the U.S. since 2011, bringing the total number of active schools to 65. Add to that the fact that several existing schools* are investing in and/or expanding their facilities or programs and it's clear: dental education is booming.
The above map shows the new dental schools opened in the past two years.
*These dental schools have either recently expanded their enrollment and/or facilities or are in the process of doing so: University of North Carolina School of Dentistry, Chapel Hill, NC; University of the Pacific Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, San Francisco, CA; Marquette University School of Dentistry, Milwaukee, WI; Georgia Health Sciences University College of Dental Medicine, Augusta, GA; University of Louisville School of Dentistry, Louisville, KY;...
On the heels of LMT's September special coverage, The Changing Landscape of Dentistry, about the changing demographics, business models and other factors influencing your client base, the ADA just released an in-depth report, A Profession in Transition: Key Forces Reshaping the Dental Landscape, touching on many of the same topics.
Here are some key findings from the report:
Per capita expenditures are expected to grow over the coming decades, but at a very slow rate. In 2010, per capita dental expenditures were $269. Projected expenditures range from a conservative $277 to an optimistic $325 by 2040.
Older Americans are expected to account for a growing share of dental expenditures over the coming decades. Specifically, Seniors ages 60-79 will account for about 32% of all dental expenditures by 2040, followed by children with about 24%. The largest growth will be in adults ages 70-79 whose proportion of total expenditures is expected to double between 2010 and 2040.