Oral health promotion: the economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK.
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INTRODUCTION: The effect of sugarfree gum (SFG) on the prevention of dental caries has been established for some time. With increased constraints placed on healthcare budgets, the importance of economic considerations in decision-making about oral health interventions has increased. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the potential cost savings in dental care associated with increased levels of SFG usage. METHODS: The analysis examined the amount of money which would hypothetically be saved if the UK 12-year-old population chewed more SFG. The number of sticks chewed per year and the caries risk reduction were modelled to create a dose response curve. The costs of tooth restoration, tooth extraction in primary care settings and under general anaesthetic were considered, and the effects of caries reduction on these costs calculated. RESULTS: If all members of the UK 12-year-old population chewed SFG frequently (twice a day), the potential cost savings for the cohort over the course of one year were estimated to range from £1.2 to £3.3 million and if they chewed three times a day, £8.2 million could be saved each year. Sensitivity analyses of the key parameters demonstrated that cost savings would still be likely to be observed even in scenarios with less significant increases in SFG use. CONCLUSION: This study shows that if levels of SFG usage in the teenage population in the UK could be increased, substantial cost savings might be achieved.
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