The true cost of a cavity

Cavities can be painful and inconvenient, but new data shows that over a person’s lifetime, a single cavity can also have serious economic consequences.

A study conducted by the Data and Analysis Center1 found that the average cost to maintain a restored cavity in the molar of a 10-year old reaches $2,187 by the time he or she is age 79. If a patient has several cavities, that cost increases accordingly.

Because there are no permanent restorative materials available to treat cavities, costs may be incurred beyond the removal of the cavity. Fillings can wear out and need replacement, and in some cases a crown becomes necessary, which is more expensive. The lifetime cost of a cavity also increases if a tooth requires root canal treatment or extraction and replacement with a bridge or other prosthetic service.

According to the study, over a person’s lifetime it costs $1,788 to maintain a single filling on an anterior tooth and $2,108 to maintain one in a premolar. On average, patients who develop cavities in their molars between ages 7 and 12 require more than $1,000 in services by age 40 to maintain each restoration.

"While one cavity can be expensive, two or more cavities can drive expenses well above the lifetime cost of preventive care," says Marilynn Belek, DMD, chief dental officer and executive vice president at Delta Dental. "When a patient practices good oral hygiene and regularly visits the dentist, cavities — and their associated costs — are almost entirely preventable."

  • 1The Data and Analysis Center (DAC) is a company of dental science experts and business analysts affiliated with Delta Dental Plans Association (the federation of Delta Dental member companies around the country). The DAC has a data warehouse of millions of claims submitted to Delta Dental member companies that are the basis for studying a variety of dental issues.

Community Contacts

Delta Dental Health, Education and Research Fund:

Adrienne Lew

(415) 972-8449

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