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Dental diseases cost billions of dollars a year worldwide

A new study adds up the total costs of dealing with dental problems each year -- and it's a jaw-dropping number.

The total global costs associated with dental diseases amounts to $442 billion per year, according to a new report released this week from the International and American Associations for Dental Research (IADR/AADR).

The paper, titled "Global Economic Impact of Dental Diseases," estimated both direct costs, or the overall expenditures for dental health care, and indirect costs associated with the three most prevalent oral conditions: untreated tooth decay, severe periodontitis and severe tooth loss. Indirect costs were mainly looked at in terms of productivity losses due to absenteeism from work.

The study authors searched global health and dental databases to calculate the direct costs of dental diseases by country. In all, the researchers found relevant data on dental diseases and costs for 66 countries. They estimated the total direct costs to be $298 billion yearly, or about of 4.6 percent of global health expenditure.

To estimate indirect costs, the researchers factored in 2010 figures on gross domestic product per capita from the International Monetary Fund, as well as estimates on the toll of oral disease from the US Global Burden of Disease Study. The indirect costs totaled $144 billion yearly -- an economic loss in the same range as the 10 most frequent global causes of death.

The authors suggest that improvements in oral health worldwide would provide benefits not only in terms of reducing treatment costs, but could also help improve productivity in the labor market.

"As the community works collaboratively to solve this need, it's important to stay cognizant of the global economic burden of oral diseases so that we may continue to work toward improving oral health for all populations," AADR Immediate Past President Timothy DeRouen said in a statement.

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