Oral health and dental care in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Oral health is an important, but often overlooked and underrated aspect of a person’s general health. Common oral diseases and conditions include tooth decay or dental cavities or caries, bad breath, dry mouth, periodontitis or gum disease, including gingivitis, and oral cancer. Although genetics play a role in the susceptibility and severity of many such conditions, simple oral care can greatly reduce the chances of suffering from a number of oral conditions. This care involves regularly brushing teeth, flossing, avoiding risk factors like smoking and sugary foods and drinks, and visiting the dentist for regular cleanings and checkups.

One of the most common oral health problems are cavities, or dental caries, which are the deterioration of teeth due to bacteria. In 2015-2016, around 46 percent of youth aged 2 to 19 years suffered from dental caries, with 13 percent untreated. Much less common, but more serious, are rates of oral cancer. Approximately 9,754 people died from cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx in the U.S. in 2015, although the five-year survival rate of such cancers is around 68 percent.

Such numbers highlight the need for dental professionals and receiving dental treatment. In the U.S. there were an estimated 196,441 active dentists in 2016, that was around seven dentists per 10,000 civilians. The cost of dental services and visiting the dentist is the number one reason given for not visiting the dentist more frequently. In fact, in 2016, nine percent of people in the U.S. reported that in the past year they needed dental services, but did not receive needed services due to the cost. Since 1990, the cost of dental services in the U.S. has risen significantly, reflecting the struggle for many to afford dental treatment. This lack of care is worrying not only because oral health is a reflection of general health, but also because it affects one’s appearance and therefore confidence. For example, in 2015, 28 percent of those aged 18 to 34 years stated the appearance of their mouth and teeth affected their ability to interview for a job.

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Oral health and dental care in the U.S.

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