Economic Impact of Regulating the Use of Amalgam Restorations
Objective. This article estimates the financial impact of a ban on amalgam restorations for selected population groups: the entire population, children, and children and women of childbearing age. Methods. Using claim and enrollment data from Delta Dental of Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana and the American Dental Association Survey of Dental Services Rendered, we estimated the per capita use and annual rate of change in amalgam restorations for each age, gender, and socioeconomic subgroup. We used population projections to obtain national estimates of amalgam use, and the dental component of the Consumer Price Index to estimate the annual rate of change in fees. We then calculated the number of dental amalgams affected by the regulation, and the fees for each of the years 2005 to 2020.
Results. If amalgam restorations are banned for the entire population, the average price of restorations before 2005 and after the ban would increase $52 from $278 to $330, and total expenditures for restorations would increase from $46.2 billion to $49.7 billion. As the price of restorations increases, there would be 15,444,021 fewer restorations inserted per year. The estimated first-year impact of banning dental amalgams in the entire population is an increase in expenditures of $8.2 billion.
Conclusions. An amalgam ban would have a substantial short- and long-term impact on increasing expenditures for dental care, decreasing utilization, and increasing untreated disease. Based on the available evidence, we believe that state legislatures should seriously consider these effects when contemplating possible restrictions on the use of amalgam restorations.