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Cost of dental care, Dental economics, Health care delivery, Health services


Introduction: As total health and dental care expenditures in the United States continue to rise, healthcare disparities for low to middle-income Americans creates an imperative to analyze existing expenditures. This study examined health and dental care expenditures in the United States from 1996 to 2016 and explored trends in spending across various population subgroups.

Methods: Using data collected by the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, this study examined health and dental care expenditures in the United States from 1996 to 2016. Trends in spending were displayed graphically and spending across subgroups examined. All expenditures were adjusted for inflation or deflation to the 2016 dollar.

Results: Both total health and dental expenditures increased between 1996 and 2016 with total healthcare expenditures increasing from $838.33 billion in 1996 to $1.62 trillion in 2016, a 1.9-fold increase. Despite an overall increase, total expenditures slowed between 2004 and 2012 with the exception of the older adult population. Over the study period, expenditures increased across all groups with the greatest increases seen in older adult health and dental care. The per capita geriatric dental care expenditure increased 59% while the per capita geriatric healthcare expenditure increased 50% across the two decades. For the overall US population, the per capita dental care expenditure increased 27% while the per capita healthcare expenditure increased 60% over the two decades. All groups except the uninsured experienced increased dental care expenditure over the study period.

Conclusions: Healthcare spending is not inherently bad since it brings benefits while exacting costs. Our findings indicate that while there were increases in both health and dental care expenditures from 1996 to 2016, these increases were non-uniform both across population subgroups and time. Further research to understand these trends in detail will be helpful to develop strategies to address health and dental care disparities and to maximize resource utilization.


© 2020 Hung et al.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


The data underlying the results presented in the study are available from a public depository at https://www.meps. files.jsp. The data files are the "Full-Year Consolidated Data Files" from the years 1996 to 2016.



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