Modest Growth Noted In Dental Care Utilization
Much like the U.S. economy, when it comes to the subjects of dental spending and number of dental visits, it’s easy to find conflicting reports.
Much like the U.S. economy, when it comes to the subjects of dental spending and number of dental visits, it’s easy to find conflicting reports. Are visits up, down or sideways? Turns out, it might be “all of the above.”
A research brief recently issued by the American Dental Association (ADA) Health Policy Institute suggests that, based on 2014 data, U.S. dental spending has remained flat, following what it characterizes as a multiyear trend. A report written by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ National Health Expenditure Accounts Team, however, cites a $3.1 billion increase in national expenditures on dental services between 2013 and 2014. Published in Health Affairs, the report says this represents annual growth of 2.8%.
While the ADA brief acknowledges that 2014 data show a “slight uptick in dental spending,” after accounting for inflation and population growth, it asserts that expenditures on oral health care remain flat.
Data from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) point to some interesting trends, however. According to the NCHS, while the number of dental visits has remained mostly flat among patients ages 18 to 64, oral health professionals have seen an increase in visits among pediatric patients and older adults. The data largely corroborate a point raised in the ADA brief that notes a key driver in demand for services has been a “decrease in dental care use among working-age adults” — a key component of the patient base.
Comparing dental visits from 2010 and 2013 (the most recent year cited), the NCHS reports a 4.1% increase in pediatric visits in 2013, and a 3.1% increase in visits by patients age 65 and older. Among individuals ages 18 to 64, however, there was a modest 0.6% growth in visits.
And, in what some may perceive as an unexpected development, when broken down by gender and averaged across all age groups, visits by male patients increased at a faster rate than female patients. Although women still see the dentist more frequently than their male counterparts, at least men are finally catching up.
- National Center for Health Statistics. Health, United States, 2014: With Special Features on Adults Aged 55–64. Hyattsville, MD. 2015.
- National Health Spending in 2014: Faster Growth Driven by Coverage Expansion and Prescription Drug Spending. Health Affairs. 2015;doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1194.