Dental health is intimately linked to the health of the whole body. Poor dental health contributes to heart disease and diabetes, and adversely affects speech and self-esteem. In rare cases, untreated dental disease in children has led to death. Dental decay prevents educational success and future employment opportunities.
Dental decay disproportionately affects people of color and families with low incomes.
- A national survey found that employed Hispanic adults were twice as likely to have untreated dental cavities as Whites .
- 46% of Oregon Latino children have untreated dental decay, as compared to 34% of their White counterparts .
- Mexican American toddlers are more likely to get dental cavities in their primary teeth, more decay and fillings, and more untreated decay than White children .
African American/Black Community
- African Americans of all ages have substantially higher rates of untreated decay than Whites .
- African Americans ages 35-44 have almost double the rate of tooth decay as Whites .
- African American males have the highest incidence rate of cavities in the U. S., compared with women and other racial/ethnic groups .
Native American Community
- The odds of Native American preschoolers having tooth decay is five times greater than other ethnic/racial groups .
- Native American teens have more than double the amount of permanent tooth decay as their peers (68% to 24%) .
- 72% of six to eight year old Native Americans have untreated cavities .
Tooth decay is closely tied to socioeconomic status, with children from low-income families more likely to develop cavities. Preschoolers in households with income less than 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are three to five times more likely to have cavities than children from families equal to or above 300% of the FPL .
- Low-income children miss 12 times more school days due to dental disease than children from higher income families .
- A ten-year old child who develops cavities will pay more than $2000 over a lifetime to take care of the decayed tooth .
- Children living in low-income families have twice the untreated decay as their more affluent peers .
- Nearly 1 in 3 children living in low-income families in Oregon currently suffer from rampant decay (seven or more teeth with past or present decay) .
- Children living in low-income families are significantly less likely to visit a dentist, resulting in higher rates of untreated and rampant decay .