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The high cost of dental-related lost productivity

Feb. 8, 2024
Each year, oral health issues cost Americans many missed hours of productivity and billions of dollars. Learn who's most at risk.

US adults lose some 243 million hours of productivity annually to oral health issues, with those with lower-paying and hourly jobs more likely to lose more work hours due to either their own or someone else’s unplanned dental visit.

Among the key findings in a new report by CareQuest Institute on lost productivity and dental issues is the high cost of such missed productivity in the US: an estimated $45 billion annually.

The findings are part of CareQuest’s annual State of Oral Health Equity in America report in which it surveyed more than 5,200 adult health-care consumers in January–February 2023 on various aspects of oral health, including how oral health issues impact activities of daily life, largely due to unplanned dental visits. In separate questions, participants were asked if they lost productivity due to their own dental issues or someone else’s (such as a child or person under their care), as well as to estimate how many productive hours they had lost.

According to the report, some 4% of respondents, corresponding to approximately 10 million US adults, noted they missed at least some productivity time due to their own oral pain; 2.2% of respondents (corresponding to 5.7 million parents) and 1.3% of respondents (corresponding to 3.3 million people identifying as caregivers) noted they’ve missed productivity due to others’ dental pain.

Factors impacting missing productivity time include “identifying as female, Hispanic, or having to travel 45 minutes or more to see a dental provider.” The report goes on to note that being at least 60 years old or unemployed made respondents significantly less likely to report missing productivity time for unexpected dental visits, as they’re more likely to be retired or otherwise not be missing time at work.

While the CareQuest report focused on the impact to adults’ productivity, it notes that prior research using 2008 NHIS data estimates that US schoolchildren miss approximately 34 million hours of school each year due to unplanned dental care for acute dental problems.

Access the CareQuest report, The Hour of Need: Productivity Time Lost Due to Urgent Oral Health Needs