Dentistry appears to be one profession that the recession might not bite. The 17 % average profit margin of dentists' offices was higher than that of any other industry in 2008, according to Sageworks, which uses data from 9,000 CPA firms across the country. Aside from tooth grinding and other nervous habits that bring folks to the dentist, insurance issues appear to be driving the profits.

More and more folks are losing their dental insurance and are skipping cleanings and other preventive care to save money. So when they do go to the dentist they need more expensive treatment to alleviate the pain. And while many of us will endure physical pain, very few of us will walk around with an aching mouth. In fact, if you are like me, you will go to almost any lengths to keep an attractive smile and a good bite.

I have had braces as an adult, porcelain crowns put on most of my molars, and more root canals that I can count. I have had peroxide cleanings, bonding put on the front teeth and whitening. I have the most beautiful smile that money can buy.

I'm not alone. In spite of the economy, cosmetic dentistry is booming. Sales of Snap-On Smile, a device that fits over your teeth, rose 22% in the fourth quarter of '08 compared with the third quarter. December sales were 62% higher than those in October. People want to look good even when times are bad.

The standard for smiles has changed, of course. When I was growing up, only kids with REALLY crooked teeth got braces, and we all felt sorry for them. Now, most kids get braces at least once, sometimes twice. It is very unusual to see people younger than thirty with crooked teeth. My own daughter has never had a cavity. I remember having a half dozen at a time. Glad those days are gone.

Barbara Bartlein is the People Pro. For her FREE e-mail newsletter, please visit: The People Pro


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