A new government report claims that one in five people have untreated cavities in the United States. This statistic is driven up by the prevalence of people in low-income neighborhoods who are neglecting going to the dentist. The relevance of the study could hit close to home for many Americans.
No Improvement in Tooth Decay Rates
Cavities (also known as tooth decay) are the result of plaque and tartar infiltrating weakened tooth enamel. Demographics in our population seem to have a huge factor on the rates of tooth decay. Oral health is linked to overall health, so studying the rates of untreated cavities and tooth loss says a lot about how a particular section of the population is caring for themselves. Dr. Bruce Dye, epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics says that a reduction in untreated cavities has not been significant over the last decade.
Poverty Breeds Cavities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics compiled the data on our nation’s dental health from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They cross-sectioned samples of the population in order to break down tooth decay rates by ethnic groups, income level, and age. The prevalence of tooth decay in impoverished areas seems to be a result of a higher rate of the population going on Medicaid, and eliminating dental benefits out of financial necessity. Only two percent of Medicaid goes to dental care, so people on a tight budget put going to the dentist low on their priority list of medical needs, fearing out of pocket expenses. People between the ages of 20 and 65, that live in poverty, are twice as likely to have untreated cavities as those who were financially secure.