Dental diseases aren’t just painful. They’re also expensive on a global scale. According to the International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR), direct treatment costs due to dental diseases worldwide totaled $298 billion in US dollars in 2010, accounting for 4.6% of global health expenditures.
Indirect costs amounted to an additional $144 billion US, corresponding to economic losses within the range of the 10 most frequent global causes of death. To estimate the indirect costs, researchers factored in 2010 values of gross domestic product per capita as provided by the International Monetary Fund and oral burden of disease estimates from the US Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 (GBD 2010).
For example, recent findings from Canada suggest that oral diseases account for greater than $1 billion in productivity losses yearly. A recent US study estimated the labor market value of the marginal tooth to be nearly $720 per year for an urban-residing woman earning $11 an hour and working full time.
In 2010, oral conditions collectively affected 3.9 billion people worldwide. Untreated caries in permanent teeth was the most prevalent condition in the GBD 2010, affecting 35% of people for all ages combined. Severe periodontitis and untreated caries in deciduous teeth were the sixth and tenth most prevalent conditions affecting 11% and 9% of the global population respectively.
Direct costs were identified as overall expenditures for dental health care, including public and private expenditures. Indirect costs were intended to capture productivity losses due to the 3 most common oral conditions: untreated caries in permanent and deciduous teeth, severe periodontitis, and severe tooth loss.
By region, $244.4 billion of the expenditures occurred in high-income regions including North America, Western Europe, Asia-Pacific, Australasia, and Southern Latin America. Also, $14.06 billion was expended in Latin America and the Caribbean, $12.84 billion in South Asia, $9.32 billion in Central Europe and Central Asia combined, $8.33 billion in North Africa and the Middle East, $5.79 billion in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, and $2.96 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers do note that there are limitations in their underlying data sources and that their findings should be interpreted with caution. For instance, relevant information for only 66 of 187 countries was available for estimation of direct costs. Overall, they say, there is ample room for improvement in the quality, standardization, and reporting of dental expenditures.
With an estimated total of $442 billion in direct and indirect costs, however, the researchers believe that improvements in population oral health may yield substantial economic benefits not only in terms of reduced treatment costs but also fewer productivity losses due to absenteeism from work in the labor market.
The Journal of Dental Research has published the study, “Global Economic Impact of Dental Diseases,” online. It was written by Stefan Listl, Jennifer Galloway, Peter Mossey, and Wagner Marcenes.