Pedonomics: The new economics of pediatric dentistry

Pedonomics: The new economics of pediatric dentistry

Through the years, one indicator that experts used to judge the financial success of a dentist was whether the dentist had stopped treating kids. Making the decision to stop treating kids was considered to be an indicator for various reasons, including child behavior (terrible), parental behavior (demanding), the issues associated with a mixture of adult and child patients (kids’ furniture), and kids’ interest in dentistry (none!). Truthfully, dentists were mainly choosing not to see kids because they saw no economic benefit. This practice “segregation” worked as the onslaught of baby boomers flooded practices wanting cosmetics, orthodontics, nonsurgical perio, sedation, etc. Why would you have treated kids who needed cheaper services when you could have treated the baby boomers who wanted expensive rehabilitation services? Eventually, we reached the point when more dentists wanted to be adult reconstructive dentists, while few wanted to treat children. The result was an increased supply of general dentists who limited their practices to adults and fought over a finite supply of baby boomers. Another reason to avoid treating kids was that many of us believed that someday a vaccine would be available to eliminate caries. A cautionary warning was given that treating kids in a practice would lead to a “prophy practice” with low profitability. Of course, this “caries-free” scenario never happened. The U.S. birth rate, which peaked in the late 1950s with approximately 4.3 million annual births, was expected to decline steeply, making the baby boom a once-in-a-century, postwar phenomenon. Well, that didn’t happen either. Today, birth statistics, caries occurrence, dental workforce issues, and dental benefits present new challenges for general dentists. Our birth...