Cost-effectiveness of a disease management program for early childhood caries

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To assess the cost-effectiveness of a pilot disease management (DM) program aimed at preventing early childhood caries among children younger than 5 years.


The DM program was implemented in the Boston Children's Hospital-based dental practice in 2008. Health care costs were obtained from the hospital finance department and non-health care costs were estimated through a parent survey. The measure of effectiveness was avoided hospital-based visits for restorative treatment or extractions. Incremental costs (2011 US$) and effectiveness were estimated from a health care system, societal, and public payer perspectives over 3, 6, and 12 months, by comparing DM participants (n = 395) to a historical comparison group (n = 123) using generalized linear models. Bootstrapping and other sensitivity analyses were used to incorporate uncertainty in the analyses.


The DM program was associated with a reduction in societal costs of $20 (p = 0.85), $215 (p = 0.24), and $669 (p < 0.01) per patient and a reduction in the number of hospital-based visits for restorative treatment or extractions by 0.44 (p < 0.01), 0.42 (p < 0.01), and 0.45 (p < 0.01) per patient over 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively. The probability of it being less costly and more effective was 61.5 percent, 81.9 percent, and 98.6 percent over 3, 6, and 12 months, respectively. Consistent results were observed from a health care system and public payer perspectives.


The DM program appears cost-effective and has the potential to reduce health care costs. Our results justify a multicenter trial to evaluate the DM program on a larger scale.

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