Historically, dentistry has been last in, and last out, of an economic recession. In terms of the current recession, there is some evidence to support that belief, but there are also conflicting views about whether that precedent will hold. For example, a February 2009 article in Time magazine quoted a report from Sageworks, a firm that tracks private company financial performances, which noted that dental offices had higher profit margins in 2008 than any other industry. In the same article, however, Dr. Roger Levin, CEO of the Levin Group, a dental management consultancy, noted that, traditionally, "it takes six to 12 months for economic trends to affect dental practice."
More recently, a survey conducted by the Levin Group, in collaboration with Dental Economics, showed relatively modest dips in practice production and new patient visits through October 2009, whereas an informal poll of practicing dentists taken by the NYU College of Dentistry noted that dentists are reporting practice productivity down by between 10 and 15 percent, and some respondents claimed that productivity was down even further—by between 15 and 20
percent. Whether dentistry continues to hold its own despite the recession, or repeats historical patterns by recording longer and deeper cuts in productivity even as the economy recovers, I think that the current economic climate provides an opportunity for practitioners to look ahead in ways that may help them not only to survive the current recession but also to minimize the impact of future recessions.
For example, one could think of a dental practice almost as an investment portfolio. In this scenario, dentists who ""only"" do implants or veneers are subject to a wild ride of an investment that might function like a derivative or a leveraged stock purchase. You do great on the upside, but suffer on the downside. Alternatively, a more balanced ""portfolio"" of treatment services—especially those that emphasize that good oral health is essential to
general health and wellness—might serve a practitioner well in the long term. Bacteria associated with dental plaque have been linked in studies to cardiovascular disease, diabetes (see related article on p. 32), pneumonia, and preterm, low-birth-weight deliveries. Bone loss in the lower jaws of post-menopausal women may occur prior to the skeletal bone loss associated with osteoporosis. Poor oral health directly affects an individual's nutritional state. In all these instances, the dentist can play a role in providing in-office screening and testing, flu vaccinations, consultations, and referrals that can enhance the value of the practice. And while it won't make a major difference now, it would assist practitioners when the next recession rolls around in seven or eight years.
In this issue of Global Health Nexus, we're fortunate to offer opinions on the recession's impact on dentistry from a number of distinguished thinkers, including Dr. Richard Valachovic, Executive Director of the American Dental Education Association (ADEA), and Mr. Gary W. Price, Chief Executive Officer of the Dental Trade Alliance (DTA). We are also pleased to offer a list of top strategies for maintaining a dental practice in good times and bad from Dr. Larry Rosenthal, a distinguished alumnus and one of the most prominent and successful practitioners in Manhattan; the perspective of a recent graduate, Dr. Ruben Cohen, Class of 2002, on the recession's impact on career opportunities and challenges; an article on nursing as a recession-proof profession; and an article by Dr. Jeannie Huang, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of California at San Diego, that speaks to the opportunities for dentists to add value to their practices by emphasizing the strong connections among oral health, diet, and nutrition.
This issue of Global Health Nexus also contains news of fascinating work being conducted at the College by one of our newest recruits, Dr. Nicola C. Partridge, in the area of bone research, as well as studies examining less virulent HIV-2 for clues about HIV/AIDS; the use of a psychoactive agent to promote enhanced well-being for cancer sufferers; and a collaborative nursing/ dental study that found that over 90 percent of people with periodontal diseases are at risk for diabetes.
In addition to continually advancing our research mission, one of NYUCD's greatest points of pride is its global focus, which was recently on display during an academic conference held at NYUCD and cosponsored with the Associated Medical Schools of New York, the Association of Academic Dental Centers, and the nursing and public health schools in New York State to explore opportunities for collaboration in helping to address health problems that transcend national borders. You can read more about the conference on p. 44.
A special area of collaboration of which we are very proud exists between NYU's College of Arts and Science and its College of Dentistry. I doubt that any other dental school has the number and depth of collaborations with its university-affiliated college of arts and science as does NYUCD, and I think you'll be very interested to learn about them in the story that appears on p. 78.
You will also find stories reporting the very good news that we have continued to move forward in increasing the level of our students' performance on the National Board Dental Examinations (Part I), which now show an overall pass rate for NYU students of an amazing 98.6 percent, while continuing to expand and renovate our facilities to improve the teaching, learning, treatment, and work environment for our students, faculty, staff, and patients, and at the same time setting a record high last year in annual campaign contributions despite the poor economy.
I hope that reading all of these varied articles is a wonderful reminder of what your support is helping to achieve. Thank you and please enjoy this issue.