Preventive dental care saves money on total dental care for Medicare beneficiaries

Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367

Preventive dental care may limit expensive nonpreventive dental care procedures among the older population, suggests a new study. It found that Medicare beneficiaries who used preventive dental care (one visit a year that included dental cleaning) had more dental visits—but fewer visits for expensive nonpreventive procedures and lower dental expenses—than beneficiaries who only had oral problems treated at the dentist.

University of Maryland Dental School researchers, Richard J. Manski, D.D.S., M.B.A., Ph.D., also a senior scholar at the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), John Moeller, Ph.D., formerly of AHRQ, and Haiyan Chen, M.D., Ph.D., used results of the 2002 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey to examine dental care use and costs for 10,582 Medicare beneficiaries during a 1-year period. Users of preventive dental care were more likely to have dental insurance coverage, and they visited the dentist more often during the year (2.83 vs. 2.49 visits) than those who didn't use preventive care. They also visited the dentist less often for more expensive procedures (0.83 vs. 1.58 visits).

As a result, they paid less ($560 vs. $822, on average) for their total dental care. The researchers concluded that coverage for preventive dental care could pay off in terms of both improving the oral health of the Medicare population and limiting the costs of expensive nonpreventive dental care.

Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 11-R012) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse. See "Investing in preventive dental care for the Medicare population: A preliminary analysis," by Drs. Moeller, Chen, and Manski, in the November 2010 American Journal of Public Health 100(11), pp. 2262-2269.

Page last reviewed March 2011
Internet Citation: Preventive dental care saves money on total dental care for Medicare beneficiaries: Research Activities, March 2011, No. 367. March 2011. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.