The health economic benefits of sugar-free gum

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The global economic burden of caries treatment is significant. A recent analysis of published data conducted on behalf of the non-profit Alliance for a Cavity-Free Future estimated that the combined direct and indirect costs total as much as $245 billion.1 The caries-preventive effects of regular use of sugar-free chewing gum may have significant economic advantages with high savings on health expenditures due to treatment of caries.

In April 2017, the American Journal of Dentistry published a paper entitled “A global approach to assess the economic benefits of increased consumption of sugar-free chewing gum”, which suggests that chewing one additional piece of sugar-free gum per day, as part of a complete oral hygiene routine, could reduce the global dental expenditures from treating tooth decay by $4.1 billion a year.2 For the first time, an economic model has been used to analyze the impact of increasing the average consumption of sugar-free gum on dental expenditures due to caries by the national healthcare systems in 25 industrialized countries.

Funded by Wrigley, the research was undertaken by a specialist health economics research group, the Institute of Empirical Health Economics (IfEG), with input from an international scientific steering committee comprised of thought-leaders in dental and public health, and economics:

  • Hanny Calache, PhD, MDSc, Centre for Population Health Research, Deakin University, Australia
  • Franklin Garcia-Godoy, DDS, MS, PhD, phD, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, USA
  • Elizabeth Kay, BDS, MPH, PhD, Foundation Dean, Peninsula Dental School, Plymouth University, UK
  • Yan Si, PhD, Department of Preventive Dentistry, Peking University School and Hospital of Stomatology, China
  • David Zilberman, PhD, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Berkeley, USA
  • Stefan Zimmer, DDS, MPHD, PhD, Department for Dental, Oral and Craniomandibular Sciences, Witten/Herdecke University, Germany

Similar studies focusing on specific markets have also shown that chewing sugar-free gum can help reduce the burden of treating dental disease. A paper published in 2016 found that if all members of the 12-year-old population in the UK chewed sugar-free gum after each meal (three times per day), the subsequent prevention of dental caries could save the National Health Service £8.2 million each year.3

A separate study published two years later found that elevating the level of chewing gum consumption per capita in Germany to that of Finland, a country with a much higher level (202 pieces of gum per year compared to 111 pieces per year in Germany), could result in annual per capita savings of more than €80.4

Published Research

1. Vucicik M, Listl S. An Economic perspective on the global burden of dental caries. For the ACFF Making Cavities History Taskforce, 2020.

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2. Rychlik R et al. A global approach to assess the economic benefits of increased consumption of sugar-free chewing gum. Am J Dent. 2017 Apr;30(2):77-83.

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3. Claxton L, Taylor M, Kay E. Oral health promotion: the economic benefits to the NHS of increased use of sugarfree gum in the UK. British Dental Journal. 2016; 220(3): 121.

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4. Zimmer S., Spyra A, Kreimendahl F. Elevating the use of sugar-free chewing gum in Germany: cost saving and caries prevention. Acta Odontologica Scandinavica. 2018. 76:6, 407-414.

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