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Oral Health & Health Equity

Published on: September 14, 2021.


1 in 4 adults

have untreated cavities

About this Data Insights

Gum disease remains one of the most prevalent chronic diseases in the United States with 46% of adults over 30 showing symptoms. Although significant improvements have been made to improve oral health in America, many people still experience barriers to preventive or essential dental care. Black Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans, as well as low-income populations, children and pregnant women are at greater risk of oral health diseases. The disparities experienced by these populations have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

This infographic highlights the challenges to achieving optimal oral health and identifies opportunities for advancing health equity moving forward.

This infographic was reviewed by Jaffer A Shariff D.D.S., M.P.H., D.P.H., M.S., Director of Research, Director Implant CE and Assistant Professor of Periodontics at Touro College of Dental Medicine at New York Medical College. Dr. Shariff is also a Diplomate of the American Board of Periodontology, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Dental Public Health.

Citations
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Gum disease definition: American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), Preventing Periodontal Disease

The State of Oral Health:

Ratio of adults and children with untreated cavities: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health At A Glance, January 13, 2021

Percentage of adults with signs of gum disease: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health At A Glance, January 13, 2021

In pregnant women, untreated gum disease is linked to premature birth and low birth weight: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General

Impact of Oral Health on the Rest of the Body:

Connections between gum disease and chronic illness: HealthyPeople.gov, Oral Health | Healthy People 2020, January 13, 2021

Pathway linking oral infection to secondary nonoral disease: National Center for Biotechnology Information, Systemic Diseases Caused by Oral Infection, October 2000

Barriers and Challenges To Achieving Oral Health:

Provider shortage: Bureau of Health Workforce Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas Statistics, June 30, 2021

Lack of access to fluoridated water: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health At A Glance, January 13, 2021

Lack of transportation/Financial barriers/ Lack of childcare or work leave issues -

During the Pandemic:

Disparities In Oral Health Before the Pandemic:

Food and housing: Interpreted from Jessica Meeske, D.D.S., chair of the ADA Council on Advocacy for Access and Prevention: American Dental Association (ADA) News, Health equity and dentistry, May 06, 2021

Income Based Disparities:

Racial and Ethnic Disparities:

  • Percentage of Children Who Have Had Cavities: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Oral Health Surveillance Report, 2019: Dental Caries in Permanent Teeth of Children and Adolescents, September 10, 2019
    • NOTE: No data available for Black 12-19 year olds

Disparities in American Indians and Alaska Natives:

Strategies To Support Oral Health Equity:

Increased Accessibility: American Dental Association (ADA) News, Health equity and dentistry, May 06, 2021

Community Support and Oral Health Education: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, July 2000

Integrated Health Care: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, July 2000

Investments in Oral Health Can Have Big Payoffs

Health care savings: American Journal of Public Health (Am J Public Health), The effect of chairside chronic disease screenings by oral health professionals on health care dollars, April 2014

School sealant program cost savings: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Vital Signs: Dental Sealant Use and Untreated Tooth Decay Among U.S. School-Aged Children, October 18, 2016

Fluoridated water savings: American Journal of Public Health (Am J Public Health), The effect of chairside chronic disease screenings by oral health professionals on health care dollars, April 2014

Additional Resources
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2000 Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in America: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America, July 2000

Impact of gum disease on general health: National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), 2000 Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General -Part Three: What Is the Relationship Between Oral Health and General Health and Well-being?, July 2000

Disparities in Access to Oral Health Care: Annual Review for Public Health (AR), Disparities In Access To Oral Health Care, January 3, 2020

ROI Fast Facts: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Oral Health Care At A Glance, January 25, 2021


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