Americans Pay a High Price for Dental Care

A new Healthnews report shows that the cost of common dental treatments, including routine cleanings, fillings, and root canals, is higher in the United States than in six other Group of Seven (G7) countries.

Although going to the dentist is not on most people's top ten list of fun things to do, routine dental care is critical for oral and overall health. For example, research shows that periodontal (gum) disease is strongly linked to cardiovascular disease.

In addition, poor oral health may contribute to severe or recurring migraine headaches.

Still, preventative dental care can help reduce the risk of conditions associated with oral health. During a cleaning appointment, dental hygienists can spot problems before they become serious, check for signs of mouth cancer, and remove plaque to prevent cavities and gum disease.

However, not all dentists take insurance, and many health insurance plans do not include dental coverage. So, many people may be unable to afford the dental care they need.

This might be especially true for Americans, as a new Healthnews report found that dental care costs are two to three times higher in the United States than in countries such as France, Japan, Germany, and Italy.

Dental costs in the U.S. also surpass those in the United Kingdom and Canada.

How much do Americans pay for dental care?

The analysis examined the costs of five standard dental procedures — cleaning, crowns, root canals, tooth extractions, and fillings — from 350 local dental and oral health websites in seven countries.

Overall, the researchers found that Americans pay an average of $518 for dental treatments. In contrast, Italians spend around $173 for the same services.

People in Germany pay about $210, and those living in Japan and France spend around $245 to $246 for dental care.

Dental treatment prices in the United Kingdom hover around $331, but Canada comes closer to the U.S. with an average of $414 for dental care procedures.

After breaking down the data, the team found that Americans pay around two to three times more for all five dental treatments than Italians. For example, a crown in Italy costs $308 versus $1052 in the U.S.

For comparison, crowns cost $323 in Germany, $460 in Japan, and $418 in France. The price jumps from there, with folks in the United Kingdom paying $627.

In Canada, a country known for affordable health care, a crown costs $989, which is close to what Americans pay.

Why is dental care so expensive in the U.S.?

When the research team examined the variations in dental care costs across all seven countries, they found that differing healthcare systems and levels of government involvement both play a role in pricing.

For example, in the U.S., most dental care occurs at private practices, and payment for services can come from insurance, government programs like Medicaid, or direct pay from the patient. Still, not all dental practices in the U.S. take insurance or Medicaid.

According to a 2022 study published in JAMA Network Open, among 204,279 active dentists in the U.S., participation in public insurance like Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) varies widely across states. Overall, the study found that 26% to 39% of U.S. dentists accepted Medicaid, and 29% to 40% participated in CHIP.

In contrast, Italy's National Health Service provides specific dental treatments for free or at reduced costs. Moreover, dental service prices may be cheaper for Italians because of lower operational costs in that region.

Countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Germany have broader government health system coverage for dental treatments, which helps lower costs.

In Canada, dental care is not part of the country's universal healthcare system, so Canadians must rely on private dental insurance, often through their employer.

While the report revealed that Americans carry a heavier financial burden for dental treatments than other countries, visiting the dentist for preventative care may save money in the long run.

According to the University of Illinois, Chicago College of Dentistry, every dollar spent on preventive dental care may save a person $8 to $50 in expensive dental treatments.


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