The spending for dental care has flattened out in recent years, despite the general unmet need of the service, according to a new report from the American Dental Association.

According to the study, and in accordance with inflation, dental spending has increased by nearly 4% per year, from 1990 to 2002; however, the general increase has slowed by 1.8% spanning 2002 and 2008. The numbers have declined by 0.3% from 2008 to 2011, according to the ADA researchers.

The research was released in two briefs that were published in March, and can be found on the ADA website. The data was drawn from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, and was maintained by the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

When using dollar values from 2011, the researchers found that an annual dental expenditure per capita had increased from $200 from two decades prior to a high of $351 in 2008, before it then dropped again to $348 in 2010.

Due to the decline starting before the recession started in 2008, and given the overall health spending continuing to see increased following 2008, the researchers concluded that there were factors outside the general recession that were at work in the spending decline. That hypothesis does not mean that the recession had no impact, but instead only points to further reasons for such a decrease in totals spent.

“A lot of this expenditure reduction is driven by a decline in utilization,” Marko Vujicic, PhD, managing partner of the ADA’s Health Policy Research Center told Medscape Medical News.

Vujicic continued to say that there were a variety of factors that contributed to the drop. Reports indicated that oral health is generally improving across the United States.

Simultaneously, Medicaid and other subsidized dental care programs that are geared toward children are expanding. There are only 17.8% of children under the age of 21 that are without dental care, and each child that is moved from paid coverage to subsidized coverage adds to the decline.


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