Health Status > Health Indicators
Oral Health and Dental Care
Oral health conditions can cause chronic pain
of the mouth and face, and can impair the ability to eat normally.
To prevent caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease, the
American Dental Association recommends maintaining a healthy diet
with plenty of water, and limiting eating and drinking between meals.1 Other important preventive measures include regular brushing and
flossing and regular dental checkups to remove plaque and examine
for caries or other potential problems.2 These guidelines
can be important for parents, since dental caries is an infectious
disease. The bacteria causing decay are transmissible from parent
or caregiver to child through oral contact and sharing food and
In 1999-2002, women were less likely than men
to have untreated dental caries (8.9 versus 12.6 percent). Among
women, non-Hispanic Blacks were most likely to have caries, followed
by Hispanic women. Sealants-a hard, clear substance applied to the
surfaces of teeth-may help to prevent caries, but women are less
likely than men to have sealants. Non-Hispanic Black women are most
likely to have caries, but are second only to Hispanic women in
Having health insurance, and particularly dental
insurance, may affect how often women visit the dentist. In 1999-2002,
72.1 percent of women who had health and dental insurance reported
seeing a dentist in the past year, compared to 60.3 percent of women
with health insurance but no dental coverage and 38.4 percent of
women with no health insurance. Women with no health insurance were
the most likely to have gone at least 5 years since a dental visit.
1 American Dental Association. Diet
and oral health: overview.
2 American Dental Association. Preventing
periodontal disease. JADA 2001 Sep;132:1339.
3 American Dental Association. ADA statement on early childhood