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Oral Health

Narrative

Poor oral health can cause chronic pain of the mouth and face and can impair the ability to eat normally. To prevent caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, the American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once per day, and receiving regular dental checkups.1

In 2005–2008, about 30 percent of adults reported that their teeth were in fair or poor condition (30.8 percent). Self-reported oral health status did not vary by sex but did vary greatly by poverty status and race and ethnicity. For example, 50.2 percent of women with household incomes of less than 100 percent of poverty reported that their teeth were in fair or poor condition compared to 19.4 percent of women with household incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty. Nearly 50 percent of Mexican American women and more than 40 percent of Other Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black women reported fair or poor oral health compared to about 25 percent of non-Hispanic White women.

Dental restoration, such as fillings or crowns, can be used to treat cavities caused by caries. In 2005–2008, 21.0 percent of adults had untreated dental decay and 78.9 percent had at least one tooth restored. Men were somewhat more likely than women to have untreated dental decay (24.5 versus 17.7 percent, respectively) and less likely to have had dental restoration (75.9 versus 81.6 percent, respectively; data for men not shown).

Dental decay and restoration vary by poverty status and race and ethnicity. Dental decay was about twice as high among non-Hispanic Black and Mexican American women (34.1 and 28.9 percent, respectively) compared to non-Hispanic White and Other Hispanic women (14.0 and 16.8 percent, respectively). Conversely, dental restoration was higher among non-Hispanic White and Other Hispanic women (84.0 and 86.5 percent, respectively) compared to non-Hispanic Black and Mexican American women (70.6 and 73.2 percent, respectively). Women with household incomes below poverty were three times more likely to have untreated dental decay than women living in households at 300 percent or more of poverty (30.3 versus 10.3 percent, respectively) and were less likely to have had dental restoration (68.3 versus 89.9 percent, respectively).

1 American Dental Association.External Web Site Policy Oral Health Topics: Brushing Your Teeth. Accessed 06/24/11.

Graphs

Data

Self-Reported Fair/Poor Oral Health Status Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Poverty Status,* 2005–2008

Percent of Women:

  • Total: 29.7
  • Less than 100% of Poverty: 50.2
  • 100-199% of Poverty: 39.3
  • 200-299% of Poverty: 29.6
  • 300% or More of Poverty: 19.4

*Poverty level, defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, was $22,025 for a family of four in 2008.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.

Presence of Tooth Restoration and Decay Among Women Aged 18 and Older, by Race/Ethnicity,* 2005–2008
Race/Ethnicity Percent of Adults
Restoration Decay
*The samples of American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, and persons of multiple race were too small to produce reliable results.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2005-2008. Analysis conducted by the Maternal and Child Health Information Resource Center.
Non-Hispanic White 84.0 14.0
Non-Hispanic Black 70.6 34.1
Mexican American 73.2 28.9
Other Hispanic 86.5 16.8
Total 81.6 17.7

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