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Investing in Prevention

Preventive dental care can play a crucial role in reducing oral pain and its associated economic burden

Everyone knows that dental problems can be quite pricey. Along with pain and suffering, costs from missed workdays and loss of productivity affect the individual — and society — in many ways. The amount of work time lost due to oral pain is considerable, with recent studies revealing significant impacts on productivity and the economy.

One study from the CareQuest Institute highlights several consequential details.1 In the United States, adults miss more than 243 million hours of work annually due to oral health problems. This includes tending to their own issues and caring for others with oral pain or dental needs: Nearly 183 million hours are lost due to personal oral pain or unplanned dental visits, while 60 million hours are missed due to caring for dependents. This lost productivity translates to an estimated cost of $45 billion per year. These problems aren’t unique to the US. For instance, studies in the United Kingdom show similar trends, with a survey finding that nearly 30% of working-age adults have missed work due to tooth pain, representing 23 million sick days and the equivalent of 93,000 full-time jobs.2

The data clearly show that oral pain is a significant issue with substantial consequences for both individuals and society. While these numbers are staggering, if we consider they only reflect missed work and not reduced productivity while still on the job, it’s obvious that pain associated with dental problems has far reaching impact. Even more clear is that preventive dental care can play a crucial role in reducing oral pain and its associated economic burden.

Preventive oral health approaches save money in several ways, both for individuals and for the healthcare system. For example, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that providing fluoridated water saves an average of $32 per person per year, while school-based sealant programs can save $11 per sealed tooth over 4 years.3

 Some additional key points:

  • Preventive care reduces the risk of complications such as infections or abscesses, which can require hospitalization and additional costs. In some instances, dental infections can result in death.
  • By minimizing oral pain and dental emergencies, individuals miss fewer workdays, boosting productivity and income.
  • Good oral health can contribute to overall well-being and focus, leading to better job performance.
  • By preventing serious oral health problems, the burden on hospitals and public healthcare systems decreases.
  • Good oral health is linked to better overall health, potentially reducing future medical expenses for conditions such as diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Investing in preventive oral health is a wise decision that can save money in the long run and contribute to overall well-being and productivity. It’s past time that we focus on prevention.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief


  1. CareQuest Institute. The hour of need: productivity time lost due to urgent oral health needs. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2024.
  2. Denplan. Oral Health Survey 2023. Available at:,or%2093%2C000%20full%2Dtime%20jobs. Accessed February 26, 2024.
  3. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Return on Investment. Available at: Accessed February 26, 2024.

From Dimensions in Dental Hygiene. March 2024; 22(2):8

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