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How Is America’s Oral Health?

The field of dentistry has improved over the years. Thus, today, nearly all dental diseases are preventable.

But the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that despite these facts, more than 40 percent of adults felt pain in their mouth.

More than 80 percent of people suffer from at least one cavity by the age 34.

Approximately 23.7 percent between the age of 20 to 64 suffer from tooth decay. Additionally, four to 12 percent of US adults suffer from advanced gum disease or periodontitis.

Roughly 25 percent of those 65 and above have already lost all their teeth.

The American Cancer Society estimated 51,540 new cases of oral cancer will be diagnosed. Approximately 10,030 of those people will die from the disease in 2018. In 2012, CDC found that nearly 44,000 new cases of cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx were diagnosed in the US in 2012. In the same year, almost 9,000 deaths were recorded.

Aside from these oral health problems, other aspects of life are also affected by the condition of the mouth and teeth.

According to the American Dental Association (ADA), one in four adults avoids smiling due to the condition of their mouth and teeth. In fact, one in five adults experience anxiety due their oral standing. Additionally, according to the ADA, 23 percent of adults are unhappy and bashful with the condition of their mouth and teeth.

The alarming figures, said ADA, is due to the difficulty in the access to dental care for some individuals and families. According to the oral health advocate, about two-thirds of Americans experience challenges in accessing dental care which include getting to a dental office, prioritizing dental care among other health crisis and basic living, overcoming financial barriers, and traversing government assistance programs.

In the fact sheets released by ADA in 2014, only 52.3 percent of adults visit the dentist every six months, and 15.4 percent do so once a year. Furthermore, 11 percent only go to the dentist once every two or three years. More than one in five or 21.3 percent have not visited the dentist in the last few years.

People cited cost, fear of the dentist and inability to find a convenient location or appointment time as the top reasons for avoiding the dentist. Among the reasons, 59 percent of adults forgo dental care because of its accompanying cost. This is no longer surprising considering the continuous increase in the cost of dental services, recording a CPI of 477.4 in 2017.

Meanwhile, 19 percent said they cannot find a convenient location or appointment time. Also, fewer people have dental insurance in comparison to medical insurance. For every adult aged 19 and older without medical insurance, three do not have dental insurance. On the one hand, those who have dental insurance lose theirs when they retire.

ADA urges wider healthcare community, local, federal and state officials including the private sector and people who desire a more productive and healthier nation to take part in sealant programs for kids, community water fluoridation, education of individuals on gum and teeth health and getting more people into dental homes.

Former ADA president Dr. Maxine Feinberg also underscored the belief of the Association that prevention is still the best answer in alleviating dental problems. “While it is deemed crucial to treat a disease that has already emerged, the public health community has to intensify its focus on proven and tested approaches to preventing it,” she says.

Since most of the oral health problems are preventable, basic dental hygiene will be helpful in bringing those alarming figures down.

Some important habits that you can have to maintain good oral health are as follows:

  • Brushing teeth correctly with brush bristles at a 45-degree angle from your gum line. Also, practice the up and down, back and forth motion when brushing to ensure all parts are cleaned.
  • Floss regularly reaching areas in your mouth between the teeth that toothbrush and mouthwash miss. Flossing at least once a day, preferably after you eat dinner or before going to sleep, is necessary.
  • Minimize soda, alcohol or coffee intake as these beverages can weaken and discolor the teeth. This is due to their high phosphorous content.
  • Stock up on calcium and other vitamins to strengthen your teeth.
  • Clean your tongue by lightly brushing it.

Date Published: May 20, 2017

Last Updated: February 15, 2019


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