German ministry questions benefits of braces | News | DW | 03.01.2019
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German ministry questions benefits of braces

Around one in two young people in Germany receive some form of dental treatment, but a report commissioned by the Health Ministry has cast doubt on whether they really need it.

A report commissioned by Germany's Health Ministry has called for more research into the medical benefits of braces amid record spending on dental treatments by publicly-funded health insurers.

The Berlin-based IGES Institute said in the report, which aggregated results from multiple studies, that the available evidence did not prove braces or other dental treatments lowered the long-term likelihood of developing caries, gum disease or tooth loss.

The authors admitted, however, that further study was required to make any definitive conclusions. And despite little evidence for any medical benefits, studies have shown that braces' cosmetic benefits have a positive psychological effect on many patients.

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How to prevent gum disease

Billions spent on German mouths

Germany's public health insurance companies spent a record €1.1 billion ($1.25 billion) on dental treatments in 2017. The IGES report said the dearth of data precluded any judgement on whether the spending met the economic efficiency criteria of public health insurers.

A Health Ministry spokesman said the government did not, as some German media outlets had reported, doubt the need for dental treatments such as braces.

 "In principle, lawmakers do not evaluate the benefit of any particular therapy," he said.

Read more: Can toothpaste really whiten teeth?

Paying out-of-pocket

Lawmakers do however decide on what types of medical treatment public insurers are obliged to cover based on advice from medical experts.

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No reason to fear the dentist

Nearly one in two young people in Germany receive some sort of dental treatment. Many are required to pay some of the associated costs out-of-pocket.

The Health Ministry commissioned the IGES report after the National Audit Office complained about what it said was scarce research on the medical benefits of many types of dental treatments.

amp/rt (dpa, AFP)

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