Author: Katie Anderson

As layoffs and furlough days continue to eat away at pocket books, local dentists say they’ve noticed a decrease in the area’s appetite for oral health care.

Dental health care experts are concerned.

“I think a lot of preventative care has become affected by people’s economic situations,” said Randall Lawson, a doctor of dental surgery and owner of College Avenue Dental in Jacksonville.

“I have two hygienists that do preventive care, cleanings, et cetera, and they have seemed to become less busy as of late.”

He said although the summer time is busier due to children being out of school, his office has seen more cancellations than usual.

William Weller, a doctor of dental surgery with an office on West Lafayette Avenue, has seen a similar trend at his practice.

“Whenever we have a downturn or anything like this there are several things that happen,” Dr. Weller said. “Probably the most significant is people looking for ways to cut corners — looking to delay or postpone their six-month checkups. It’s kind of unfortunate because yes, they’ll save 100 bucks on a checkup but they’ll pay later.”

Dr. Weller said the people he and his fellow dentists treat in the area, for the most part, “are really honest people.”

“If they don’t have the money they don’t want to come in and incur a debt,” he explained. “Which is laudable to some degree, but something that we worry about.”

They worry for many reasons.

One, most patients end up paying more when they do get back in the chair because problems like cavities, gum diseases and cracked teeth go undetected and get worse.

Patients are also skipping an oral cancer screening when they skip a check up, Mr. Weller said. “It’s rare, but serious.”

Dentists also worry from a business perspective. When the economy does turn around, the their offices will face a pile up of patients who avoided care.

Elective dental work has also apparently been affected by the economic slowdown.

“People seem to be delaying elective sorts of things, cosmetic services, whitening procedures,” Dr. Lawson said. “Currently it’s just being delayed but eventually it might end up being abandoned.”

Dr. Weller said he has seen patients cancel appointments to have their teeth capped.

Another indicator of how bad the economic situation is, Dr. Weller added, is the number of patients deciding to have teeth removed rather than treated and saved.

“Root canals and crowns can cost $1,000 to $2,000,” he said. “When insurance first began to become popular, the maximum annual coverage was about $1,000 to $1,500. Today it’s still $1,000 to $1,500. Now, you can easily reach that with one tooth.”

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