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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The management of an endodontically abscessed tooth: patient health state utility, decision-tree and economic analysis

Ben Balevi1* and Sasha Shepperd2

Author Affiliations

1 Private Practice #306 – 805 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 1K1, Canada. Affiliated with the Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Room 1342-2250 Health Science Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada

2 Research Scientist in Evidence Synthesis, University of Oxford, Department of Public Health,. Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK

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BMC Oral Health 2007, 7:17  doi:10.1186/1472-6831-7-17

Published: 6 December 2007



A frequent encounter in clinical practice is the middle-aged adult patient complaining of a toothache caused by the spread of a carious infection into the tooth's endodontic complex. Decisions about the range of treatment options (conventional crown with a post and core technique (CC), a single tooth implant (STI), a conventional dental bridge (CDB), and a partial removable denture (RPD)) have to balance the prognosis, utility and cost. Little is know about the utility patients attach to the different treatment options for an endontically abscessed mandibular molar and maxillary incisor. We measured patients' dental-health-state utilities and ranking preferences of the treatment options for these dental problems.


Forty school teachers ranked their preferences for conventional crown with a post and core technique, a single tooth implant, a conventional dental bridge, and a partial removable denture using a standard gamble and willingness to pay. Data previously reported on treatment prognosis and direct "out-of-pocket" costs were used in a decision-tree and economic analysis


The Standard Gamble utilities for the restoration of a mandibular 1st molar with either the conventional crown (CC), single-tooth-implant (STI), conventional dental bridge (CDB) or removable-partial-denture (RPD) were 74.47 [± 6.91], 78.60 [± 5.19], 76.22 [± 5.78], 64.80 [± 8.1] respectively (p < 0.05). Their respective Willingness-to-Pay ($CDN) were 1,782.05 [± 361.42], 1,871.79 [± 349.44], 1,605.13 [± 348.10], 1,351.28 [± 368.62] (p < 0.05).

The standard gamble utilities for the restoration of a maxillary central incisor with a CC, STI, CDB and RPD were 88.50 [± 6.12], 90.68 [± 3.41], 89.78 [± 3.81] and 91.10 [± 3.57] respectively (p > 0.05). Their respective willingness-to-pay ($CDN) were: 1,782.05 [± 361.42], 1,871.79 [± 349.44], 1,605.13 [± 348.10] and 1,351.28 [± 368.62]. A statistical difference was found between the utility of treating a maxillary central incisor and mandibular 1st-molar (p < 0.05).

The expected-utility-value for a 5-year prosthetic survival was highest for the CDB and the STI treatment of an abscessed mandibular molar (74.75 and 71.47 respectively) and maxillary incisor (86.24 and 84.91 respectively). This held up to a sensitivity analysis when the success of root canal therapy and the risk of damage to the adjacent tooth were varied. The RPD for both the molar and incisor was the favored treatment based on a cost-utility (3.85 and 2.74 CND$ per year of tooth saved respectively) and cost-benefit analysis (0.92 to 0.60 CND$ of cost per $ of benefit, respectively) for a prosthetic clinical survival of 5-years.


The position of the abscessed tooth and the amount of insurance coverage influences the utility and rank assigned by patients to the different treatment options. STI and CDB have optimal EUVs for a 5-year survival outcome, and RPD has significantly lower cost providing the better cost:benefit ratio.