The Facts:

Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General

Please visit our Blog for additional information on the effects of dental disease.

National Call To Action To Promote Oral Health Health in America:

http://www.surgeongeneral.gov

A Report of the Surgeon General alerted Americans to the importance of oral health in their daily lives. The Report, issued in May 2000, provided state-of-the-science evidence on the growth and development of oral, dental and craniofacial tissues and organs; the diseases and conditions affecting them; and the integral relationship between oral health and general health, including recent reports of associations between chronic oral infections and diabetes, osteoporosis, heart and lung conditions, and certain adverse pregnancy outcomes. The text further detailed how oral health is promoted, how oral diseases and conditions are prevented and managed, and what needs and opportunities exist to enhance oral health.

The Rationale for Action:

The rationale for action is based on data from the Surgeon General’s Report.

These and other data on the economic, social, and personal burdens of oral diseases and disorders show that although the nation has made substantial improvements in oral health, more must be done.

The Burden of Oral Diseases and Disorders:

Oral diseases are progressive and cumulative and become more complex over time. They can affect our ability to eat, the foods we choose, how we look, and the way we communicate. These diseases can affect economic productivity and compromise our ability to work at home, at school, or on the job.

Health disparities exist across population groups at all ages. Over one third of the U.S.population (100 million people) has no access to community water fluoridation. Over 108 million children and adults lack dental insurance, which is over 2.5 times the number who lacks medical insurance.

The following are highlights of oral health data for children:

Dental caries (tooth decay) is the single most common chronic childhood disease – 5 times more common than asthma and 7 times more common than hay fever. Over 50 percent of 5- to 9-year-old children have at least one cavity or filling, and that proportion increases to 78 percent among 17-year-olds. Nevertheless, these figures represent improvements in the oral health of children compared to a generation gap.

There are striking disparities in dental disease by income. Poor children suffer twice as much dental caries as their more affluent peers, and their disease is more likely to be untreated. These poor-non poor differences continue into adolescence. One out of four children in America is born into poverty, and children living below the poverty line (annual income of $17,000 for a single family of four) have more severe and untreated decay.

* Professional care is necessary for maintaining oral health, yet 25 percent of poor children have not seen a dentist before entering kindergarten.

* Medical insurance is a strong predictor of access to dental care. Uninsured children are 2.5 times less likely than insured children to receive dental care. Children from families without dental insurance are 3 times more likely to have dental needs than children with either public or private insurance. For each child without medical insurance, there are at least 2.6 children without dental insurance.

* Medicaid has not been able to fill the gap in providing dental care to poor children. Fewer than one in five Medicaid-covered children received a single dental visit in a recent yearlong study period. Although new programs such as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) may increase the number of insured children, many will still be left without effective dental coverage.

* The social impact of oral diseases in children is substantial. More than 51 million school hours are lost each year to dental-related illness. Poor children suffer nearly 12 times more restricted-activity days than children from higher-income families. Pain and suffering due to untreated diseases can lead to problems in eating, speaking and attending to learning.

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