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Introducing: The Dentist Economic Indicator
CNBC.com | March 02, 2012 | 04:46 PM EST

Want to know how the economy’s doing? Ask your dentist.

That’s how we recently discovered one hopeful sign for the labor market: an increase in new dental patients. Our Manhattan-based dentist said he was seeing about three new patients a day in recent weeks, up from one or two on average last year. The reason? More people with health insurance as a result of getting full-time jobs.

Manhattan, of course, is not exactly representative of the rest of the country. So we reached out to dentists across the country and heard much the same thing; while business isn’t exactly booming, there has been a noticeable increase in new patients coming through the door.

Santa Clarita Dentistry of Santa Clarita, Calif., reported a slight uptick in new patients this year, reversing about three years of decline. Atlanta Center for Cosmetic Dentistry in Atlanta, Ga., is seeing three times as many new patients this year as at the end of 2011 — and more demand for cosmetic dentistry, which suggests patients have a bit more discretionary income to spend.

The increase in new patients is important because dentists can also see a surge in business for the wrong reason; namely, people scrambling to use their health benefits before they run out.

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