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28-04-2013 | Public health | Article

Dental problems create substantial burden

Abstract

Free abstract

medwireNews: Over 40 million hours are lost each year due to dental problems and their treatment in the Canadian population, study findings indicate.

The burden of dental illness, which is estimated to lead to productivity losses of more than CA$ 1 billion (€ 749,976,395), is comparable to that of musculoskeletal sprains, say Alyssa Hayes (University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) and colleagues.

Noting that oral diseases affected more than 95% of Canadian adults in 2009, Hayes et al sought to quantify their wider impact through analysis of data from the 2007-9 Canadian Health Measures Survey.

The nationally representative cross-sectional survey included nearly 30 million Canadians aged 6-79 years who were living in private households. Dental health was assessed via a household questionnaire and a clinical examination.

Just under two-thirds of respondents had private dental insurance while the remainder were uninsured, report Hayes et al in BMC Oral Health. Almost 85% perceived their oral health as good to excellent, three-quarters of participants visited dental professionals more than once a year, and 16% visited for emergency care only.

Of those surveyed, 35.1% reported having lost time from work, school, or normal activities in the previous 12 months due to dental problems and treatment. The average amount of time lost per participant was 3.5 hours, which equated to a total of 40.36 million hours at the population level.

Interestingly, women lost nearly twice as much time due to dental problems as did men (4.2 vs 2.0 hours) while there was no difference in time lost according to age.

The strongest predictor of time lost was oral pain, whereby people who frequently experienced oral pain were nearly five times as likely to report time lost, and lost on average 4 hours more, than those who rarely or never experienced such pain.

In economic terms, individual losses "are arguably minimal," say the authors, ranging from $ 43 (€ 32) to $ 110 (€ 82) depending on the type of employment.

However, the losses were more substantial when extrapolated to the entire job sector, with those employed in business, finance and administrative occupations, for example, having potential losses of over $ 230 million (€ 172,484,919).

The researchers conclude: "These findings are integral to understanding the impact of dental problems and treatment at the societal level, and to the inclusion of oral health in broader health policy debates, especially because of a renewed interest in the economic implications of illness."

medwireNews (www.medwirenews.com) is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Joanna Lyford, Senior medwireNews Reporter

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