U.S. oral health declining, says NY Times

In a recent story on dental health aid therapists, the New York Times noted that "a study last year from the Centers for Disease Control [sic] showed that Americans' dental health was worsening for the first time since statistics began to be kept."

But the gloomy pronouncement may be in error. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its annual report on U.S. health, "Health, United States, 2007." The report had some dismal numbers on access to care, but it noted that the oral health of the nation has improved in recent times.

"Between 1988–1994 and 2001–2004, approximately one-quarter of adults 20–64 years of age had untreated dental caries, down from nearly one-half in 1971–1974," the report noted.

Another CDC report released in April 2007 -- "Trends in Oral Health Status: United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2004" -- noted that "for most Americans, oral health status has improved since 1988–1994." Both reports relied for oral health statistics primarily on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, for which 2004 statistics are the most recently available.

The second CDC report also noted that since the early 1970s dental caries have declined significantly among school-aged children, fewer adults have experienced tooth loss because of dental decay or periodontal disease, and complete tooth loss among adults has consistently declined.

But even though the oral health of the nation has improved, "oral health disparities remain across some population groups."

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