Consumption and direct costs of dental care for patients with head and neck cancer: A 16-year cohort study

PLoS One. 2017 Aug 23;12(8):e0182877. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0182877. eCollection 2017.


Patients with head and neck (H&N) cancer are commonly treated with surgery and/or radiotherapy, which can increase the risk of oral infection, dental caries, and periodontal disease. The present study investigated dental care consumption and costs in patient with H&N cancer before and after the cancer diagnosis. Data from Swedish regional and national registers were used to follow up dental care utilization and dental procedure costs. The analysis included 2,754 patients who had been diagnosed with H&N cancer (exposed cohort) in Stockholm County, Sweden, during 2000-2012 and 13,036 matched persons without cancer (unexposed cohort). The exposed cohort was sub-grouped into irradiated and non-irradiated patients for analysis. The exposed cohort underwent a moderately higher number of dental procedures per year than the unexposed cohort in both the year of the cancer diagnosis and the year after cancer diagnosis; in addition, these numbers were higher in the irradiated than in the non-irradiated subgroup of the exposed cohort. Dental care consumption and costs in the exposed cohort declined over time but remained at a slightly higher level than in the unexposed cohort over the long term (more than two years). Examinations and preventive procedures accounted for most of the higher consumption in the short term (2 years) and at the longer term follow-up. Swedish national insurance subsidized costs for dental treatment, which were highest in the irradiated subgroup and lowest in the unexposed cohort. Direct costs to the patient, however, were similar among the groups. Swedish national health insurance protects patients with H&N cancer from high dental expenditures. Further studies on the cost-effectiveness of preventive dental care for patients are needed.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Dental Health Services / economics*
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Health Care Costs*
  • Humans
  • Sweden

Grants and funding

This work was supported by Grant no OF18101423 from the Stockholm County council (SOF) to GSE. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.