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Dental visits decline among middle and higher income American adults

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A study commissioned by the American Dental Association proved what many dental practices serving an upscale patient base already know: regular dental visits are on the decline, and have been for quite awhile.

Data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) focused on the years between 2000 and 2010, the most recent years for which data was available, showed that among all adults, the number who visited the dentist in the last 12 months decreased from 41% in 2003 to 37% in 2010.

Younger adults experienced the greatest decline in dental utilization. Among 19 to 34 year olds, the utilization rate of 34% in 2003 dropped to 30% in 2010. In the 35 to 49 age group, dental utilization went from 43% to 38%.

Though dental utilization declined most among poor adults, middle and high income Americans, the life-blood of many Houston area dental practices, experienced a drop from 38% to 34% and 54% to 51%, respectively, between the years 2003 and 2010.

A primary driver of reduced utilization is a shift in the pattern of dental benefits. Since 2000, the share of adults with private dental benefits steadily declined, while the percentage of adults with no dental benefits increased.

What can a dental practice do?
Successful practices take advantage of social media platforms that allow them to network with patients. A deeper dentist/patient relationship increases the likelihood that when time for that next dental visit comes, even if it’s been awhile since the last one, patients will return to you.

Active participation in social sharing sites can also help to keep your practice top of mind. Don’t know what sites to join? Ask your patients where they visit then be where they are.

It is critically important to stay on top of what’s being posted about your practice on line. If negative reviews pop up (At some point, most likely they will) quickly address the comment. Seven out of eight people say that an unaddressed negative review affects how they feel about a dental practice.

Know that if managing your practice and the demands of its digital media life feels overwhelming, Hearst Media Group can assist you with a full line of turnkey Social Media and Reputation Management products.

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