U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration

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Oral Health

Poor oral health can cause chronic pain of the mouth and face and can impair the ability to eat normally. To prevent caries (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease, the American Dental Association recommends brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once per day, and receiving regular dental checkups.1

In 2005–2008, 39.1 percent of women reported that their teeth were in excellent or very good condition. This varied, however, by race and ethnicity; fewer than one-quarter of Mexican American women (22.5 percent) and 25.4 percent of non-Hispanic Black women reported their teeth to be in excellent or very good condition, compared to 44.5 percent of non-Hispanic White women. Nearly 50 percent of Mexican American women and more than 40 percent of other Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black women reported fair or poor oral health.

Dental restoration, such as fillings or crowns, can be used to treat cavities caused by caries. In 2005–2008, 81.6 percent of women had had at least one tooth restored, while 17.7 percent of women had untreated tooth decay. The likelihood of dental restoration among women increases as income increases, while prevalence of untreated tooth decay decreases with increasing income. Women with incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty were most likely to have had at least one tooth restored (89.9 percent), compared to 72.3 percent of women with incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty and 68.3 percent of women living in poverty. Conversely, 30.3 percent of women with household incomes below 100 percent of poverty and 25.2 percent of women with incomes of 100–199 percent of poverty had untreated tooth decay, compared to 10.3 percent of women with incomes of 300 percent or more of poverty.

1 American Dental Association. For the Dental Patient: Basic Oral Health. accessed 12/16/09.

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