Visiting dentists is rebound despite outbreaks of coronavirus

Dentists’ offices reopen and work overtime, and teeth suppliers are optimistic things are close to back to normal after the coronavirus put the sector on ice for almost two months.

Why it matters: Teeth cleaning and filling cavities, by their nature, require close contact with the vessel that spreads the virus. That has some experts worried, and the World Health Organization this month advised people to delay routine dental care until COVID-19 transmission rates continue to decline.

The news ride: Almost every part of the dental sector lost money and left jobs during the lockdowns, but people make appointments and buy new products.

  • Almost all dentist offices are now open. Revenues will still fall by 40% this year.
  • Global sales of dental supplies by Henry Schein, a supply distributor, fell 41% in the second quarter. But Henry Schein CFO Steven Paladino told investors this month that “in the states in the US that are seeing an increased infection rate for COVID, we are not seeing a significant falloff in patient demand.”
  • Sales at dental equipment manufacturer Dentsply Sirona fell 51%. Dental patients are slowly returning, executives said, and July volumes looked better than June.
  • Sales at Align Technology, which makes Invisalign toothpicks, fell 41% in the second quarter. Align CEO Joseph Hogan told investors he was “incredibly optimistic … we are not seeing another COVID shutdown in a large market that will last a long time,” and the company is trying to reach more teens during the pandemic by signing a promotional deal with social media influencers Charli D’Amelio.

Between the lines: Like large medical insurers, fewer people who visit their dentist have been a boon for dental insurers.

  • However, the appointment of dentists leads to emergency procedures, and “we fully expect” to see more of that this year, said David Holmberg, CEO of Highmark Health, which owns United Concordia Dental.

The big picture: Federal health officials have not documented any cases of COVID-19 within dentists’ offices.

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention therefore does not agree with the WHO’s call for delayed routine services, but the agency tells dentists to provide care “only after you have assessed the patient and both considered the risk to the patient of proposal of care as the risk “to staff and patients of transmission of the virus.

The finish line: Dentists and hygienists now have more protective equipment than before, but oral care will be the first health service to be paused again as outbreaks continue to worsen.