Cavities Still Common in the U.S.

When it comes to Americans taking care of their oral health, the nation has seen a remarkable improvement over the last 20 years. Dentists report seeing fewer cavities in patients now than they did two decades ago, according to a report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. However, not every population group has demonstrated this kind of overall improvement.

According to recent estimates, one out of five Americans have one or more untreated cavities, and the poorer the person, the more likely they are to fall into the 20 percent that goes untreated.

African-Americans and Mexican-Americans account for a large number of those not receiving care for their cavities. This lack of care frequently leads to tooth loss, as 60 percent of African-Americans have lost at least one tooth, an especially high number when compared to just under 50 percent of white and Mexican-Americans have lost a tooth.

A recent report from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, using data compiled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2005 and 2008, paints a pretty detailed picture about the oral health problems of millions of Americans.

Oral Health by Age Group

• For children between the ages of five to 11, 20 percent have at least one untreated cavity. For teens between the ages of 12 and 19, the number drops to 13 percent.
• For adults between the ages of 20 to 44, 25 percent have at least one untreated cavity.
• For adults over the age of 60, 20 percent have at least one untreated cavity.
• Fifty-two percent of teens and 30 percent of children have had some kind of dental restoration procedure performed, such as a filling or root canal.
• Nearly 90 percent of adults over the age of 65 have undergone at least one restoration procedure.

Oral Healthy by Poverty and Ethnicity

• Thirty-four percent of African-Americans and 31 percent of Mexican-Americans have untreated cavities compared to 18 percent of whites.
• Adults between the ages of 20 and 64 were more than twice as likely to have untreated cavities if they lived below the poverty line (42 percent to 17 percent).
• Of teens and children living in poverty, 25 percent have untreated cavities
• Among adults, nearly 90 percent of whites have had dental restoration, compared to 68 percent of Mexican-Americans and 73 percent of African-Americans.
• Children and teens living in poorer households were much less likely to have sealants than children and teens in higher-income families (20 percent vs. 32 percent).
• Sixty percent of adults in households living in poverty have lost at least one permanent tooth. Thirty-two percent of African-Americans over 65 had lost all their teeth, compared to 22 percent of whites and 16 percent of Mexican-Americans.

Lessons Learned

What these statistics show is how important regular checkups with Dr. Williams and his courteous staff are to the long-term health of your teeth. While brushing and flossing daily will help prevent tooth decay, even the most ardent oral health enthusiast can develop the occasional cavity. Without undergoing routine cleanings, you can have a cavity for years that goes undetected. Once the tooth decay damage becomes too severe, saving your tooth may not be an option. So to ensure your continued oral health, make sure you keep scheduling checkups every six months. Your smile will thank you.

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