HEALTH STATUS > HEALTH INDICATORS

ORAL HEALTH AND DENTAL CARE

Oral health conditions can cause chronic pain of the mouth and face, and can disrupt normal eating behaviors. Dental caries (also referred to as cavities or tooth decay) is one type of dental disorder that may cause problems if left untreated. In 1999-2003, women were less likely than men to have untreated dental caries (8.9 percent of women compared to 12.6 percent of men). Non-Hispanic Black women were most likely to have caries (17.1 percent), followed by Hispanic women (12.0 percent); non-Hispanic White women were least likely to have caries (6.8 percent).

Sealants—a hard, clear substance applied to the surfaces of teeth—may help to prevent caries. Although women are less likely to have caries than men, they are also less likely to have sealants. In 1999-2002, 19.5 percent of women had sealants compared to 23.1 percent of men. Hispanic women were most likely to have sealants (23.0 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Black women (21.4 percent); non-Hispanic White women were least likely to have sealants (18.0 percent).

Proper dental care is important for preventing dental caries and maintaining overall oral health. In 1999-2002, 62.7 percent of women had seen a dentist in the past year. Hispanic women were least likely to have seen a dentist in the past year (51.5 percent), followed by non-Hispanic Black women (52.2 percent). Hispanic women and non-Hispanic Black women were also most likely to have gone at least five years since their last dental visit (16.0 and 15.6 percent, respectively).

Length of time since last dental visit also varies by income. In 1999-2002, women with incomes between 100 and 199 percent of the poverty level were least likely to have seen a dentist in the past year (47.0 percent) and most likely to have gone at least five years since a dental visit (21.1 percent). Women with incomes over 300 percent of the poverty level were most likely to have regular dental visits.

Graph: Untreated Dental Caries and Presence of Sealants in Females by Race/Ethnicity[d]

Graph: Time Since Last Seen a Dentist Among Women by Poverty Status[d]