If you want to know how the economy is doing, look inside America's mouth

Big data provided by business intelligence app Sikka says that economic performance can be predicted by dental hygiene. And we're headed for a downturn.

Chris Matyszczyk
2 min read

"Hmm. Yes. It looks GDP is going to be 3 percent off this year." +DrMichaels/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Big data can tell you anything.

Yes, that 'anything' might be irrelevant gobbledegook, with all the actual causality of leaping salmon causing earthquakes, but it's fun all the same.

I am here to reveal, therefore, that the future of the American economy is in the hands of dentists. How do I know this? I have data before me that says the state of our mouths is sending us into a little recession.

Provided by business intelligence app Sikka, these numbers say America's economy is getting sicker.

Specifically, 2014 has seen a reduction in the purchase of crowns, veneers and implants from dentists. These are, allegedly, often cash payments and express a measure of the country's prosperity.

This year, dentists haven't managed a June surge in average daily net production. This doesn't augur well. Indeed, our teeth are chattering that there is to be a downturn.

CEO Vijay Sikka says that he's been collating dental data since 2008. He analyzed 12,200 dental practices and believes the results closely correlate with economic performance.

Sikka told me: "This is the first research of its kind to be published in the dental industry. We have an unprecedented ability to see real-time trends and data. What is happening in these providers' practices, with more than 300 million American patients represented, is tied to broader economic trends."

His National Economic Dental Report [PDF] is a veritable cavity of, well, numbers. And, of course, charts. It shows how American mouths describe three economic phases: crisis, recovery and transition.

2014 is supposed to be in the recovery phase. Given that he believes slightly bad times are just around the bend, what other indicators of this are there?

Sikka insists that in bad times people start not turning up for appointments. The report says: "When times are tough (2008, 2009 and 2010), practices try to schedule but patients don't accept appointments and don't agree to the appointment requests. In times of transition, the practices are scheduling more aggressively and more patients are accepting but don't show up as consistently as they do during the recovery."

There you have it, Wall Street. Don't bother with all your algorithms and bets on both sides of the game. Just keep peering into America's teeth and all the answers are there. Allegedly.