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Growth in dental spending expected to slow in 2009

Baltimore—Dental spending will exceed $100 billion this year, government economists said in a report projecting national health expenditures through the next 10 years.

The projected 2 percent increase from $99.9 billion in 2008 to $101.9 billion would be the lowest annual increase in dental spending since 1960. The national health spending projections were linked to the effects of economic recession and reported by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Office of the Actuary.

Association member surveys also suggest a slowing of the dental economy, said Dr. John S. Findley, ADA president. More than half of the 1,749 dentists surveyed during the last quarter of 2008 reported declining incomes and an increase in open appointment times. “Unfortunately, this means that patients may be deferring even the preventive care that could save them from experiencing severe oral health problems and additional expenditures in the future,” he said. ADA members can obtain the Economic Confidence Survey Report—Volume 1online in PDF format.

As projected by CMS actuaries, the dental economy will bounce back quickly, increasing by 4.3 percent in 2010 and gaining traction to more normal 6 percent growth by 2015. But this year, the near flat dental growth rate trails the expected 5.5 percent rate of growth for aggregate health spending as well as the growth rates for physician, hospital, prescription drug and other measured health care services.

Growth in national health expenditures is expected to significantly outpace economic growth in 2008 and 2009 due to economic recession, according to the CMS report. The dental and other health spending projection data are posted on the CMS Web site.