ATLANTA, GEORGIA–New study from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that mostly all American adults have tooth decay, and more than a quarter have cavities that have not been treated.
“Approximately 91 percent of U.S. adults aged 20-64 had dental caries in permanent teeth in 2011-2012,” the report, published by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, finds.
Having been known around the world for having strong, white teeth, dentists see something different inside a patient’s mouth and according to survey, by the time an American hit 65, 96 percent will have tooth decay.
Dr. Bruce Dye of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, who led the study shared that, “It is not what people are doing wrong. It is maybe what we can do better.”
A lot has to do with access to dentists. With the absence of health insurance coverage for dental care, or living in areas where dentists are not common, an individual is more likely to have tooth decay, and far more likely to go without fillings.
Dye and colleagues write, “The prevalence of untreated dental caries was nearly twice as high for non-Hispanic black adults (42 percent) compared with non-Hispanic white (22 percent) and Asian (17 percent) adults.”
They used a national survey of tens of thousands of Americans, called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, for their report.
About 19 percent of people 65 and over have no teeth at all. This rises to 26 percent of people 75 and older.
This report looked at adults. A previous survey found 42 percent of kids aged 2 to 11 have tooth decay, and 23 percent had not been treated for it.
According to the American Dental Association, tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children in the U.S., five times as common as asthma.
Caries, which comes from the Latin word for “rotten”, is caused mostly by bacteria reacting with sugar in the mouth. They produce acid that leaches minerals from the teeth and weakens them. So it’s an infectious disease — one that stays with people for life. Plus there is a genetic susceptibility to developing tooth decay, Dye said.
Fluoride helps slow this loss of minerals and greatly reduces rates of tooth decay. The CDC says 69 percent of Americans who use public water systems, or about 184 million people, get fluoridated water.
There’s been a recent rise in the rate of cavities among kids, and dentists think the popularity of bottled water — which often isn’t fluoridated — might be to blame.
Dentists had hoped a sweetener called xylitol might reduce the risk for tooth decay but a giant study recently found it didn’t.
Although most Americans have tooth decay, the situation is far improved from past generations, Dye said. Toothbrushing, fluoridation and better dental care have all helped, he said.
STAGES OF TOOTH DECAY
Quick facts about tooth decay:
- Tooth decay happens when acids wear away the tooth’s hard surface layer.
– Tooth decay can cause holes in your teeth. These are called cavities.
– Tooth decay can be avoided by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing between teeth.
– Toothpastes and mouthwash with fluoride can also help strengthen teeth and help fight tooth decay.
Acids constantly attack your tooth surfaces, but tooth decay doesn’t happen all at once. That’s because other elements in your mouth work to strengthen your teeth and stop the tooth decay process. One of these elements is saliva. Saliva has minerals that help strengthen tooth surfaces. Fluoride, a natural mineral that is often added to water and found in toothpaste, also helps to make teeth stronger. Dentists check for tooth decay and cavities but how do you know if you have a tooth decay? Here are 4 stages and signs to know if you have one.
The dull spot on the tooth’s surface may be decay. Brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing may prevent it from becoming a cavity.
The decay is now a cavity. It has gone through the tooth’s hard surface layer.
Now that the cavity has reached the softer layer of the tooth, it will get bigger faster.
If the cavity is not filled, it can cause bigger problems deeper in the tooth. This is why it’s important to see your dental team regularly.
If you do have tooth decay, your dental team may talk to you about fillings, fluoride, or other treatment choices but here are some tips to help prevent tooth decay:
1. Don’t eat a lot of sugary foods. Cut down on snacks between meals. This will help prevent plaque from making acid. It will also reduce the number of times your teeth are exposed to acids.
2. Eat a diet high in calcium. Calcium helps strengthen tooth surfaces.
3. Drink plenty of water, especially if you take certain medicines. Some medicines can decrease the amount of saliva your body makes. This may put you at greater risk for tooth decay.
4. Use a toothpaste and mouthwash with fluoride. It will help make tooth surfaces harder and stronger.
5. Visit your dental team at least twice a year. They will clean your teeth and check for cavities.