Aim: This study aims to estimate the cost-effectiveness from a societal perspective of seven dental caries prevention programmes among schoolchildren in Chile: three community-based programmes: water-fluoridation, salt-fluoridation and dental sealants; and four school-based programmes: milk-fluoridation; fluoridated mouthrinses (FMR); APF-Gel, and supervised toothbrushing with fluoride toothpaste.
Methods: Standard cost-effectiveness analysis methods were used. The costs associated with implementing and operating each programme, using a societal perspective, were identified and estimated. The comparator was non-intervention. Health outcomes were measured as dental caries averted over a 6-year period. Costs were estimated as direct treatment costs, programmes costs and costs of productivity losses as a result of each dental caries prevention programme. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios were calculated for each programme. Sensitivity analyses were conducted over key parameters.
Results: Primary cost-effectiveness analysis (discounted) indicated that four programmes showed net social savings by the DMFT averted. These savings encompassed a range of values per diseased tooth averted; US$16.21 (salt-fluoridation), US$14.89 (community water fluoridation); US$14.78 (milk fluoridation); and US$8.63 (FMR). Individual programmes using an APF-Gel application, dental sealants, and supervised tooth brushing using fluoridated toothpaste, represent costs for the society per diseased tooth averted of US$21.30, US$11.56 and US$8.55, respectively.
Conclusion: Based on cost required to prevent one carious tooth among schoolchildren, salt fluoridation was the most cost-effective, with APF-Gel ranking as least cost-effective. Findings confirm that most community/school-based dental caries interventions are cost-effective uses of society's financial resources. The models used are conservative and likely to underestimate the real benefits of each intervention.