Prevention First

Investing in Prevention

The U.S. spends a lot on health care.  People in other developed countries, however, live longer.

75% of medical health care dollars goes to treating “preventable” chronic diseases and only 5% is spent on prevention.  The same is true for dental health care dollars (Nash, Reifsnyder, Fabius, and Pracilio, 2011).

Dental care in the United States accounted for 7.2% of per capita healthcare expenditures, higher than the expenditures for cancer treatment (5.4%) and diabetes (4.6%).  If significant prevention measures are not implemented, the annual cost of dental services is expected to rise 58% by 2018 (Fucillo, 2011).

In the U.S.:

  • 17.5% of children, ages 5-19, have untreated dental cavities
  • 27.4% of adults, ages 20-44, have untreated dental cavities

In Oregon:

  • 20% of children, ages 6-9, have untreated cavities
  • A study in Washington State revealed that a trip to the ER was the first “dental visit” for one in four children overall, and for roughly half the children younger than 3½ years.
  • A visit to the ER costs 10 times the cost of the visit to the private dental office for preventive services.
  • From 2008 to 2010, there was a 31% increase in dental-related ER visits by Oregon’s Medicaid enrollees.

What Works

There are two interventions that reduce dental cavities in a community (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015):

  • Community water fluoridation
  • School dental sealant programs

Average Costs to Start Fluoridating?

For a city of about 1 million people = $6 per person for the first year due to costs of the equipment, and 50 cents per person every year thereafter.

Average Cost of One Dental Filling?

$120 per tooth

Delta Dental: A child that has a molar filled at age 10 will pay over $2,187 to maintain that tooth by the time he reaches the age of 79.  If he has several cavities, the cost will increase accordingly.