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HPI brief: U.S. dental spending sees uptick in 2015

December 19, 2016

By Kimber Solana

Dental spending again increased in 2015, an indication that the dental economy is rebounding from a flat trend that began in the Great Recession, according to the ADA Health Policy Institute.
National dental care expenditures were $117.5 billion in 2015, up from $114 billion in 2014 (in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars); 2014 numbers were slightly up from the previous year which had $113.3 billion in dental care expenditures, according to "U.S. Dental Spending Up in 2015," a research brief authored by Thomas Wall, manager of statistical research, and Marko Vujicic, Ph.D. chief economist and vice president of the Health Policy Institute.
The brief reported that dental expenditures accounted for 3.7 percent of overall national health expenditures, down from a peak of 4.5 percent in 2000 but comparable to recent years.
The increase, the authors wrote, could be a result of increased dental care utilization, not only among Medicaid children, but also adults under Medicaid as a result of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Since 1990, there has been an increase in the share of dental expenditures financed by public sources — from 2 percent in 1990 to 12 percent in 2015 — and a decrease in out-of-pocket spending.
"The data show that the source of the increase in dental care expenditures in 2015 was mainly a sharp increase in [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] programs spending and a slight increase in private dental insurance expenditures," according to the brief. "Out-of-pocket expenditures did not change in 2015 and are down significantly from their peak in 2008.
The same shift away from out-of-pocket financing toward public financing also occurred for overall health spending, the authors added. "Still, dental expenditures remain overwhelmingly financed by private dental insurance and out-of-pocket spending, a very different mix than for overall health expenditures."
To read the full brief, visit