New study finds almost all U.S. adults have cavities
A recently revealed study from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics brought to light that 91 percent, nearly all adults in the U.S. between the ages of 20 and 64, had dental caries, another word for cavities or tooth decay. Twenty-seven percent have tooth decay has gone completely untreated.
According to Time magazine, the statistics reveal an improvement in the country's overall oral health from the 1960s, and shouldn't be taken with as much shock as would be suggested by the high percentage. Instead, it's recommended that it be looked at as a step in the right direction that needs to lead to even more.
"It is not what people are doing wrong. It is maybe what we can do better," said Dr. Bruce Dye of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, who led the study, to NBC's Today.
Dye claims that teeth conditions of people living today are better than past generations as a result of better brushing practices, adding more fluoride to local water supplies to ward off erosion and better dental care.
Looking at the numbers
Tens of thousands of people provided information for these results through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in between 2011 and 2012. It was with this survey that researchers came to find that 19 percent of people over the age of 65 had no teeth at all as a result of caries. This number rises to 26 percent for those over the age of 75.
When the numbers are separated amongst different races, another interesting trend is revealed. It was found the percentage of untreated cavities nearly doubled in African-American adults, at 42 percent, compared to Caucasian adults at 22 percent and Asian adults at 17 percent.
While this study focused on adults, a previous study showed 42 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 11 also had untreated tooth decay. The American Dental Association even cited tooth decay as the most common chronic disease amongst U.S. children. Tooth decay is actually four times more likely to be found in a child than asthma. It's the most common chronic disease in people between the ages of 6 and 19.
Why the shift?
A large reason as to why overall oral care is better for this generation than past generations is because of better dentistry practices. The same can be said as to why the percentages of untreated caries are so much higher for certain demographics than others. Those who live in areas where dental care isn't convenient or covered by health insurance have higher rates of untreated caries and are less likely to get fillings to keep bacteria from building up.
Another potential cause for this high number of people with caries is the growing consumption of fruit juices and sports drinks filled with different versions of sugar. Caries are often a result of sugar staying in the mouth and becoming a safe haven or bacteria that can eat away at teeth.