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J Am Dent Assoc. 2000 Aug;131(8):1188-95.

Impact of older adults on private dental practices, 1988-1998.

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Department of Applied Dentistry, University of Colorado School of Dentistry, Denver 80262, USA.



A 1988 study indicated that older adults made up a substantial portion of regular patients seen in private dental practices. A follow-up study was conducted in 1998 to track changes over the decade in the participating practices.


The authors collected data from respondents to the 1988 survey again in 1998. The authors received complete data from 41.7 percent of the original respondents who still were practicing at their 1988 addresses. Dentists kept a log of all procedures provided in their practices in one day. The authors attributed values of services in both years, using a 1997 national estimate of fees.


The authors found that the percentage of office visits, services provided and patient expenditures attributed to patients 65 years of age or older exceeded the percentage of the population in that age group. In four of the five age groups in which patients had the highest mean expenditures, patients were 60 years of age or older. Patients 60 years of age or older accounted for 28.8 percent of all patient expenditures, a 12.1 percent increase from 1988. Longitudinal analyses indicated that between 1988 and 1998, dentists 40 years of age or older experienced increases of 30.3 to 64.3 percent in the proportion of visits, services and expenditures by patients 65 years of age or older.


The results of this investigation illustrate the importance of older adults to dental practices. Data from the practices of dentists who participated in both surveys show increases in the percentage of total dental visits, total services provided and total patient expenditures attributed to older adults.


Older adults continue to have a disproportionate and positive impact on the surveyed dental practices and their financial well-being. Dentists should reevaluate the accessibility of their practices to this population. Rather than waiting for the practice to "age," dentists may want to structure their practices in ways that appeal directly to older adults and work to even better understand the needs and preferences of older patients already in their practices.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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