Objective

The aim of the study was to conduct a cost-analysis of a school based oral healthcare program in the mobile dental unit of the University of Witwatersrand. This was a 5 month program in 2012.
Xtend’s network has been involved in a wide variety of healthcare projects including mobile health clinic cost issues of affordable prices for parental awareness.

Results

According to a report from the Gauteng Oral Health Department, only 0.5% of the 10.4 million South African Children aged 5-14 years had benefited from fissure sealant programs.

The parental consent return rate for oral health screening was 41%, this resulted in 946 learners screened and 421 treated in the 5 month program.

Potential reasons for the low uptake were poor co-operation of school teachers and lack of parental awareness. More community engagement should be undertaken in order to advertise the services and sensitize parents and other members of the community on the importance of oral health.

The low (n=946) uptake of screening services in 5 months resulted in 61% higher costs than if more (n=2460) learners were screened in a full year.

The total economic cost was R813 701, with personnel cost making up more than a 1/3 of the total cost.

Table 1 Total economic costs of inputs

Description R % contribution
Recurrent costs (2012)
Personnel costs 279.364 34.3%
Transport costs 6286 0.8%
Vehicle Maintenance 3952 0.5%
Equipment maintenance 29014 3.6%
Supplies 1657 0.2%
Dental materials 146980 18.1%
Total recurrent costs 467253 57.5%
Capital costs
Vehicles 172983 21.3%
Equipment 173465 21.3%
Total capital costs 346448 42.6%
Total costs 813701 100%

In this study, fissure sealants were found to cost less in terms of the procedures undertaken.  Scaling up the uptake of school mobile dental screening and fissure sealant programs in the country could potentially result in a reducing dental caries in an efficient manner.

Table 2 Average costs of procedures

Type of procedures Amount of procedures Costs of various procedures
Atraumatic (ART) restorations 816 teeth R997
Conventional restorations 34 teeth R23932
Fissure sealants 1677 teeth R485
Extractions 182 teeth R4470
Fluoride applications 95 patients R8565

Conclusion

The information generated in this study will be useful to planning for the expansion of service provision to a wider population.

Study Publication Date October 2016

Molete, M.P., Chola, L. & Hofman, K.J. Costs of a school-based dental mobile service in South Africa. BMC Health Serv Res 16, 590 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-016-1827-2