CDC Reports Decline in Tooth Decay Among U.S. Residents
Tooth decay has declined among children and adults in the U.S. during the past decade, according to a CDC report released Thursday, Knight Ridder/Indianapolis Star reports. The CDC's Division of Oral Health compared U.S. dental health statistics from 1988 to 1994 with data from 1999 to 2002. The study found the greatest decrease in tooth decay among children, although decay declined across all groups. Researchers also found that lower-income groups and minorities had more dental problems than other groups (Portillo, Knight Ridder/Indianapolis Star, 8/26). Of children ages six to 19, 42% had a cavity or filling in their permanent teeth between 1999 and 2002, compared with 57% between 1988 and 1994. Among adults during those time periods, tooth decay fell by 4% to 6%, with 20% fewer people over the age of 60 reporting that they had lost all their teeth.
Division of Oral Health Director William Maas said, "This reduced decay in all ages is really a reflection of the widespread availability of fluoride" (Washington Post, 8/26). The mineral, which prevents tooth decay, is available through water fluoridation -- which reaches two-thirds of U.S. residents -- and fluoridated toothpaste, Maas said. One-third of low-income U.S. residents had untreated tooth decay, compared with 16% of middle- and upper-income adults. In addition, 19% of children from low-income families had untreated tooth decay, compared with 8% of children from families in other groups, according to the study.
Maas attributed the disparities to gaps in regular dental care and expensive treatments such as dental sealants. However, he said that school efforts to encourage low-income children to brush their teeth and go to the dentist seemed to be working. He added, "We need to make these services available to everyone" (Knight Ridder/Indianapolis Star, 8/26). The study is available online.