Women's Health USA 2007
Photographs of women's faces
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. Regular dental care is particularly important for women because there is some evidence of an association between periodontal disease and certain birth outcomes, such as increased risk of preterm birth and low birth weight.1 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.2 Other important preventive measures include daily brushing and flossing, regular dental cleanings to remove plaque, and checkups to examine for caries or other potential problems.3

In 2003–04, women were less likely than men to have untreated dental caries (23.9 versus 30.5 percent). Among women, non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women were most likely to have untreated caries. Sealants—a hard, clear substance applied to the surfaces of teeth— may help to prevent caries, but only 21.2 percent of women had sealants. Non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic women were the least likely to have sealants (7.7 and 11.4 percent, respectively).

Having health insurance—particularly dental insurance—influences how often women see a dentist. In 2003–04, 71.2 percent of women who had health insurance with a dental component saw a dentist in the past year, compared to 58.6 percent of women with health insurance but no dental component, and 38.6 percent of women with no health insurance. Uninsured women were the most likely to have not seen a dentist in more than 5 years (24.6 percent).

1 Brown A. (2007) Research to Policy and Practice Forum: Periodontal Health and Birth Outcomes: Summary of a Meeting of Maternal, Child, and Oral Health Experts. Washington, DC: National Maternal and Child Oral Health Resource Center.

2 American Dental Association. Diet and oral health: overview.

3 American Dental Association. Preventing periodontal disease. JADA 2001 Sep;132:1339.


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Women's Health USA 2007 is not copyrighted. Readers are free to duplicate and use all or part of the information contained on this page. Suggested Citation: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Women's Health USA 2007. Rockville, Maryland: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2007.