Having to pay for dental healthcare can put a considerable strain on household finances in many countries, according to an international study led by King’s College London.
The study assessed the extent of household ‘catastrophic dental health expenditure’ (CDHE) in 41 low- and middle-income countries. Expenditure was defined as catastrophic if it was equal to or higher than 40% of the household’s capacity to pay.
Up to 7% of the households surveyed had incurred CDHE in the last month. The study found that wealthier, urban and larger households, and more economically developed countries, had higher odds of facing CDHE. In low- and middle-income countries, the use of dental services is more a function of the household’s ability to pay than of people’s dental needs.
The analysis did not include the indirect costs of seeking dental care, including income loss due to ill health, travel, waiting at clinics, or providing care to family members and the results, therefore probably underestimate the financial consequences of dental healthcare on these households.
Researchers pointed out that using dental services can cost households a large proportion of their available income and push many into poverty and long-term debt. Those needing dental treatment face both the direct costs of using the service and the indirect loss of income to attend a clinic during working hours.
They said that dental public health advocates and international dental organisations should push for dental care to be included in current discussions about universal health coverage.