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Dentist Crisis

I don’t remember reading about one. Here is the abstract from a new NBER Working Paper:

In this paper we consider how the dental industry responded to the addition of fluoride to public drinking water. We take advantage of he staggered introduction of fluoridation throughout the country to analyze the changes in numbers of within-county dentists relative to physicians in the years surrounding the change in fluoridation status. We find a significant decrease in the number of dental establishments and an even larger reduction in the number of employees per firm following fluoridation. We also find that fluoridation in neighboring markets was associated with an increase in own-market dental supply, suggesting that dentists responded to the demand shock by moving from fluoridated areas to close-by markets. Further analysis suggests that some dentists may have retrained as specialists rather than moving geographically. Our estimates imply that the 8 percentage point change in exposure to water fluoridation from 1974 to 1992 may have led to the loss of as many as 0.6 percent of dental establishments and 2.1 percent of dental employees, suggesting a substantial net impact of this public good on the dental profession since its inception.

How would one do the welfare analysis on this?

One Response to “Dentist Crisis”

  1. Harry says:

    Ha ha hah. I’m not going to try to top that.

    Tuesday, though, I had a session with my foot doctor. No kidding. Let’s call him Achilles.

    Part of our conversation led to the way hospitals are measured, one being occupancy rates, where a hospital is successful if all the beds are filled. This means that the nurses are 80% occupied (that’s 120% productivity on the report), that the clerks have plenty to do billing Medicare and the insurance companies, and that the maintenance staff has something more to do than meet for coffee in the cafeteria. The twenty people in Medical Records have a backlog, and the hospital administrator has a case to present that he needs more equipment, people, space, et cetera. More donors and grants, too.

    Achilles and I agreed this is perverse. The goal of medicine is to make sick people well. Though it would never happen entirely, there might be a period when our hospitals were unoccupied, just for one day.

    Achilles is good at what he does, which includes a special gift in treating horrible wounds. He always welcomes advances in technology, and will never be out of a job unless he decides to quit.

    But Achilles is not going to work for free. If Henry Waxman came into his office to get a bunion removed, Achilles would refer him elsewhere.

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