Analysis of US Dental spending data showed that dental spending increased by 11% in 2021, with significant increases in government program spending.

The American Dental Association’s Health Policy Institute analysis of just-released US dental spending data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services finds national dental expenditures increased by 11% from $146 billion in 2020 to $162 billion in 2021, after adjusting for inflation.

Dental spending in 2021 was higher than its pre-pandemic level. Covid-19-related government relief program spending was $7 billion in 2021. Even without these programs, HPI estimates that 2021 national dental spending would have been $155 billion – still above pre-pandemic levels.

“Patients were flocking back to the dentist as we started getting back to normal preventive health care routines and providers adapted to new clinical protocols,” said Marko Vujicic, PhD, HPI chief economist and vice president. “But just as important, the federal government provided significant funding to the sector in the form of the Provider Relief Fund and the Paycheck Protection Program that clearly provided a financial stimulus.”

Government program spending increased by 25% from 2020 to 2021. Medicare and Medicaid spending each increased by about $2 billion, while private health insurance spending was up by 11%, and out-of-pocket spending increased by 13%.

“One important thing to point out is how fast public spending on dental care grew. This was already a pre-pandemic trend, but it really accelerated,” said Vujicic.

Public programs now make up 15% of total dental spending. Dental spending in Medicare grew just as much as in Medicaid in dollar terms. Public spending ultimately grew faster than out-of-pocket and private insurance dental spending.

Recent HPI data suggests that 2022 is shaping to be a holding pattern, with spending growing more slowly as pent-up demand disappears and staffing shortages limit capacity.

“Looking ahead, this time next year, we expect more modest growth,” said Vujicic.

Photo 46158487 © Daniel Kaesler |