Tough Economy Takes Its Toll on Teeth

Visits for Preventative and Needed Dental Care on Decline

In preparation for its annual Midwinter Meeting (Feb. 25-27) at McCormick Place in Chicago, the Chicago Dental Society surveyed members on how the recession is affecting dental care. According to dentists, the economy's impact has worsened over the last two years.

More than 250 of the society's member dentists responded to the survey. Among the findings:

 More than 75 percent say their patients are putting off needed dental work -- up 20 percentage points since 2008, when nearly 55 percent of dentists noted the same.

 Visits for preventative dental care are also on the decline, according to more than 50 percent of dentists surveyed. More than 40 percent of dentists reported a decline last year.

 More than 90 percent of dentists said clients are putting off cosmetic procedures, up from 60 percent last year.

 Young adults may also be skipping the dentist all together. Fifty-two percent of respondents to a CDS poll on GapersBlock.com said they had not seen a dentist in the past two years. In a separate poll, 68 percent indicated that cost prevents them from visiting a dentist. Most respondents were in their 20s and 30s.

 Area dentists are also seeing "boomerang patients" -- adult patients who still seek their pediatric dentist because of gaps in dental care as adults.

 Not only is the recession causing patients to hold off on needed treatment, but it is also causing more overall stress, which affects dental health. Sixty-five percent of CDS dentists surveyed report an increase in jaw clenching and teeth grinding amongst their patients, signs that stress may be taking its toll on the mouth. (View tips to reduce clenching and teeth grinding)

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The survey was conducted for the Chicago Dental Society's 145th annual Midwinter Meeting, which will bring more than 30,000 dental professionals to Chicago this February. The Midwinter Meeting is a forum for dentists to learn about new products, technologies and methods.