Consuming too much sugar is proving costly on a global level, according to a joint study that estimates related dental treatment expenses at $172 billion annually. Conducted by Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the Biotechnology Research and Information Network AG in Germany, the study used data from 168 countries regarding the prevalence of caries, periodontitis and edentulism. The researchers calculated the disease burden and corresponding cost of treatment to determine the total expense attributable to excess sugar consumption. The team’s methodology also focused on so-called “hidden” sugar that is found in processed products. The paper, “Global Burden of Sugar-Related Dental Diseases in 168 Countries and Corresponding Health Care Costs,” appeared in the International Journal of Dental Research.
“The data show a clear correlation between the consumption of sugar and incidence of caries, periodontitis and tooth loss,” says lead author Toni Meier, PhD, of the Institute of Agricultural and Nutritional Sciences at MLU. “For every additional 25 grams of sugar consumed per person per day — which amounts to roughly eight sugar cubes or a glass of sweetened lemonade — the cost of dental treatment in high-income countries increases, on average, by $100 per person annually.”
Countries with the highest annual costs of treatment per person are Switzerland ($402), Denmark ($238) and the United States ($185). To counter the burden of disease and associated health care costs, the team recommends that countries establish food-policy initiatives, such as educational campaigns and special taxation on certain foods. In addition, abiding by the World Health Organization’s recommendation to limit intake to 50 grams of sugar (approximately 12 teaspoons) per day would benefit individual overall health and help reduce treatment costs. Meier suggests that if this target could be reached, it might save $16 billion per year in oral health care costs.