If not for coronavirus, you’d expect your local dentist office to be doing just fine.
Dentist offices tend to be stable businesses that stick around for decades, unlike restaurants that open and close frequently. Dentists earn a healthy salary — a median of $159,000 — and offer services with no clear substitute. If you need your teeth cleaned or a cavity filled, the dentist is the only option.
This makes them, in the eyes of some economists, the perfect barometer for gauging the country’s recovery from the shock of the pandemic.
“If you look at your typical dentist office, nothing went wrong with their business model,” said Betsey Stevenson, an economics professor at the University of Michigan. “It’s just coronavirus that happened.”
The dental industry has weathered an exaggerated version of the pandemic’s economic impact, experiencing both a steeper decline and a faster recovery than other sectors. Half of all dental workers lost their jobs in March and April as states closed businesses to slow the virus’s spread. The industry accounted for a staggering 35% of all health care jobs lost in those months, even though its workers make up just 6% of the industry, according to analysis of federal data by the nonprofit Altarum Institute.