Older U.S. Adults' Dental Health Improves Overall

Article excerpt

Among U.S. adults aged 60 years or older, 6% fewer lost all their teeth in 1999-2002, compared with 1988-1994, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The proportion of older adults with no natural teeth decreased from 31% in 1988-1994 to 25% in the most recent time period, a 20% improvement, according to an analysis of data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey [MMWR 2005;54(SS-3):1-44].

Smokers were more likely than non-smokers to have no natural teeth: 14% of smokers had lost all their teeth, compared with 5% of people who had never smoked.

The dental health of U.S. adults as a whole had improved by the 1999-2002 survey, but there were still disparities based on race and income, the report shows. Among higher-income adults, 16% had untreated tooth decay in the most recent time period, compared with 41% of poor adults. Non-Hispanic blacks retained fewer teeth than Mexican Americans or non-Hispanic whites.

The study included data on 16,128 adults aged 20 years or older in 1988-1994 and 8,805 in 1999-2002. The mean number of permanent teeth among adults averaged 23 in the earlier time period and 24 in the more recent time period. A normal, full set includes 28 teeth.

The prevalence of root caries decreased from 23% in 1988-1994 to 18% in 1999-2002.

The report is the first by the CDC to look at the rate of enamel fluorosis, a disfiguring hypomineralization of enamel related to exposure to fluoride during tooth formation. …