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Abstract

The adoption of new technologies for the treatment of periodontitis and the replacement of teeth has changed the delivery of periodontal care. The objective of this review was to conduct an economic analysis of a mature periodontal service market with a well-developed workforce, including general dentists, dental hygienists and periodontists. Publicly available information about the delivery of periodontal care in the USA was used. A strong trend toward increased utilization of nonsurgical therapy and decreased utilization of surgical periodontal therapy was observed. Although periodontal surgery remained the domain of periodontists, general dentists had taken over most of the nonsurgical periodontal care. The decline in surgical periodontal therapy was associated with an increased utilization of implant-supported prosthesis. Approximately equal numbers of implants were surgically placed by periodontists, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, and general dentists. Porter’s framework of the forces driving industry competition was used to analyze the role of patients, dental insurances, general dentists, competitors, entrants, substitutes and suppliers in the periodontal service market. Estimates of out-of-pocket payments of self-pay and insured patients, reimbursement by dental insurances and providers’ earnings for various periodontal procedures and alternative treatments were calculated. Economic incentives for providers may explain some of the observed shifts in the periodontal service market. Given the inherent uncertainty about treatment outcomes in dentistry, which makes clinical judgment critical, providers may yield to economic incentives without jeopardizing their ethical standards and professional norms. Although the economic analysis pertains to the USA, some considerations may also apply to other periodontal service markets.