Report Shows Oral Health Improvements for Most Americans

There is a lot of good news and some not-so-good news about the oral health of the nation, according to a report released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the report, "Trends in Oral Health Status — United States, 1988-1994 and 1999-2004," there have been significant improvements in oral health for Americans of all ages.

More seniors are keeping their natural teeth; moderate to severe periodontitis among adults has decreased significantly; use of dental sealants in youths ages 6-19 years has increased; tooth decay in school-age children has declined; and children from low-income families appear to be getting more dental treatment.

Yet the report, based on data from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics — which represents the most comprehensive assessment of oral health data available for the U.S. population to date — reconfirms economic and racial/ethnic disparities in oral health persist.

Thirty-one percent of Mexican American children aged 6-11 years have experienced decay in their permanent teeth compared to 19 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Twelve percent of children aged 6-11 from families that live below the poverty line had untreated decay, compared to 4 percent in families with income above the poverty line.

The report also records an increase in tooth decay in the primary teeth of children aged 2-5 years, from 24 percent to 28 percent.

"This report shows that while we are continuing to make strides in prevention of tooth decay, this disease clearly remains a problem for some racial and ethnic groups, many of whom have more treated and untreated tooth decay compared with other groups," said Dr. Bruce A. Dye, a NCHS dentist and the report's lead author.

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