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Equilibrium effects of public goods: The impact of community water fluoridation on dentists

  • Katherine Ho
  • Matthew Neidell
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In this paper we consider how the dental industry responded to the addition of fluoride to public drinking water. We take advantage of the staggered introduction of fluoridation throughout the country to analyze the changes in numbers of within-county dentists relative to physicians in the years surrounding the change in fluoridation status. We find a significant decrease in the number of dental establishments and an even larger reduction in the number of employees per firm following fluoridation. We also find that fluoridation in neighboring markets was associated with an increase in own-market dental supply, suggesting that dentists responded to the demand shock by moving from fluoridated areas to close-by markets. Further analysis suggests that some dentists may have retrained as specialists rather than moving geographically. Our estimates imply that the 8 percentage point change in exposure to water fluoridation from 1974 to 1992 may have led to the loss of as many as 0.6 percent of dental establishments and 2.1 percent of dental employees, suggesting a substantial net impact of this public good on the dental profession since its inception.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15056.

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Date of creation: Jun 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15056
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  1. Martin Gaynor & James B. Rebitzer & Lowell J. Taylor, 2004. "Physician Incentives in Health Maintenance Organizations," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 112(4), pages 915-931, August.
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  8. David M. Cutler & Jonathan Gruber, 1995. "Does Public Insurance Crowd Out Private Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 5082, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Bartel, Ann P & Sicherman, Nachum, 1993. "Technological Change and Retirement Decisions of Older Workers," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 11(1), pages 162-83, January.
  10. Jonathan Gruber & Kosali Simon, 2007. "Crowd-Out Ten Years Later: Have Recent Public Insurance Expansions Crowded Out Private Health Insurance?," NBER Working Papers 12858, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  12. Hopenhayn, Hugo A, 1992. "Entry, Exit, and Firm Dynamics in Long Run Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 60(5), pages 1127-50, September.
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