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Archive for Thursday, April 22, 2010

Economy doesn’t touch cosmetic surgery industry

April 22, 2010

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Dr. James Otten shows off a model of some teeth that helps him make natural-looking dentures for a patient. Otten provides cosmetic dentistry at his office at 930 Iowa.

Dr. James Otten shows off a model of some teeth that helps him make natural-looking dentures for a patient. Otten provides cosmetic dentistry at his office at 930 Iowa.

Local doctors who do cosmetic surgery have seen little change in profits or demand despite a slumping economy and national downward trend in the industry.

Scott Thellman, a doctor at Lawrence Plastic Surgery, said the office has performed fewer large cosmetic surgeries such as tummy tucks and breast augmentation, but more people are seeking smaller procedures like Botox injections or microderm abrasions.

He said Lawrence Plastic Surgery, a relatively small-scale practice, may have been sheltered from the down economy because its customers seek conservative procedures and business never really got too high or too low.

“Our patients tend to want a good, but very natural — to not look overdone — and I think that is reflected in both how we approach our patients surgically and the kind of procedures they choose,” he said.

Women, who comprise the majority of the practice’s patients, are focused more on body contouring procedures from age 20 to 45 years old, but as they mature into their late 40s or 50s, they tend to be more concerned with facial procedures like Botox and facelifts.

Thellman said men usually seek less noticeable procedures like blepharoplasty, which involves trimming fat from the upper eye brow, or sometimes liposuction.

While cosmetic practices have seen a modest drop in the number of patients, Thellman said costs for most procedures have not changed much.

“I think in our practice, as in others with the downturn of the economy, have been rather reluctant to raise prices feeling that consumers aren’t ready to stomach a big price increase,” he said.

Dental cosmetics

James Otten, a local cosmetic dentist, said many of his patients are looking for ways to cut costs and save money.

“What we have started to notice is that they are asking more questions, they are demanding or wanting more personal time with the doctors and spending more wisely by looking for added value,” Otten said.

Like more traditional cosmetic procedures, dental patients seek the most natural look possible while remaining functional. Thellman said about 20 percent of procedures are purely aesthetic — mainly teeth coloring — while the other procedures correct some functional problems.

While the field of cosmetic dentistry is relatively young — it really took off about 10 years ago — new technologies and materials have caused some procedures to go up while others have decreased. These advancements include the ability to grow natural teeth more effectively and replacing porcelain with a cheaper tooth substitute.

“In the evolution of things, there’s some spectacular new materials and techniques that have been developed and continue to grow,” Otten said. “We’re doing things in smaller dimensions where we don’t have to grind teeth away so much.”

Nonsurgical cosmetic procedures

Carla Phipps, a doctor at Lawrence Family Medicine who also performs nonsurgical cosmetic procedures, said her business has not shrunk because patients are seeking less expensive procedures.

“I haven’t noticed any decrease to be quite honest — which has shocked me,” she said.

Phipps said the most popular procedures in terms of non-surgical cosmetics have always been microderm abrasion, Botox and laser hair removal, and those have remained in higher demand.

She said she has also seen more men and younger women ask for non-surgical procedures.

“At first I thought, ‘Why is a 30-year-old in here doing Botox because they don’t have a lot of wrinkles yet,’ but they are doing a lot of preventative stuff,” she said.

The most common procedure for men, Phipps said, is hair removal, but more and more men are getting Botox injections or laser facial procedures.

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