The effect of sugarfree gum 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 health interventions has increased. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the potential cost savings in oral care associated with increased levels of sugarfree gum usage.
The analysis focused on the benefits potentially observed in a hypothetical population of 12 year olds in the UK. The number of pieces of sugarfree gum chewed per year and the reduction in risk of dental caries 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 effect of caries reduction on these costs was calculated.
- If all 12-year-olds across the UK were to chew one additional piece of sugarfree gum per day there would be an estimated cost saving to the NHS of between £1.1m and £2.8m per year. This cost saving would rise to between £1.2m and £3.3m when two pieces of sugarfree gum were chewed per day and up to £8.2m if three pieces of sugarfree gum were chewed each day.
- Sensitivity analysis around key parameters demonstrated that cost savings would still likely be observed even in scenarios with smaller increases in sugarfree gum use.
This study shows that, if levels of sugarfree gum used by 12 year olds increased, substantial cost savings might be achieved. Whilst these figures are significant, it is important to remember they refer only to cost reductions for a small segment of the population in the UK and over a relatively short period of time. A longer-term time horizon for the study would allow for the benefits to be fully captured as treatment of a decayed tooth is rarely limited to the initial restoration. Our analysis is, therefore, conservative in its approach and it is likely that, by increasing use of sugarfree gum and thereby reducing the level of caries development, even greater cost savings in the long-term could be realised than those estimated in this analysis.
This research was authored by Professor Liz Kay (Peninsula Dental School) and Dr Matthew Taylor and Lindsay Claxton of York Health Economics Consortium.
You can download the data slide set here
Study author biographies
Professor Liz Kay
Professor Liz Kay is the Foundation Dean of Peninsula Dental School.
As well as being a full-time academic and Professor of Dental Public Health, Professor Kay is also an Honorary Consultant in Public Health, working with Public Health England and the British Dental Association. Both her research and her public health work focus on inequalities in oral health.
Over her research career, Professor Kay has attracted approximately 2 million pounds of research funding and has published 150 peer-reviewed papers and six books. Professor Kay has acted as advisor to the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and other industrial collaborators regarding the economics of oral health. She sits on the Editorial Boards of three journals, including the British Dental Journal and peer review papers for a large number of other academic publications.
Dr Matthew Taylor
Dr Matthew Taylor is the Director of York Health Economics Consortium (YHEC) and leads the Consortium’s health technology assessment programme. He has a PhD degree in quality of life measurement and an MSc in Health Economics from the University of York. Matthew has led over one hundred economic evaluations for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) and the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group (AWMSG) industry submissions as well as health technology submissions in various international settings. Dr Taylor is a Scientific Advisor to NICE, and a member of NICE’s Public Health Advisory Committee.
Lindsay Claxton is a Research Consultant at YHEC. Lindsay is an expert in the field of economic modelling and health technology assessment. Lindsay has contributed to a wide range of economic analyses, such as economic evaluations and budget impact analysis, in disease areas such as mental health, oral health, ophthalmology, rheumatology, public health and oncology.