Aren’t there bigger issues- like hunger, clean water, shelter, or education? Believe it or not, poor oral health has a lot to do with all of those issues. In fact, our oral health affects our systemic health in ways we don’t often realize.
We don’t often consider the severe impact poor oral health can have on a person’s life, but there is a clear connection between poor oral health and things like heart disease, stroke, and some forms of cancer. More frequently, poor oral health leads to severe pain, the inability to eat properly, tooth-loss, and the inability to smile.
In the United States
Although the state of dental care in the United States has continued to improve, the poorest among us still have a hard time even finding a dentist who will treat them. The people most in need of dental care are the ones least likely to get it. There are many reasons poor people lack adequate dental care in the United States: not only are their too few dentists in low-income areas, but many dentists refuse to treat patients on Medicaid.
Going to the dentist can be expensive in other ways, too. Just consider the burden of lost wages, the need to make arrangements for childcare, differences in culture, a foreign language, and the need to find transportation.
- 17 million low-income children, or 1 out of every 5, go without dental care every year.
- Dental carries (cavities) are the most common chronic disease among children, affecting 60% of American kids.
- Poor children are more than twice as likely as their affluent peers to suffer from toothaches. For kids with special needs, the likelihood is even greater.
- 1 in 4 adults over 65 have lost all their teeth.
- More than 100 million Americans can’t afford a visit to the dentist. When a toothache develops, they are left in severe pain.
Around the World
With so few dentists in many parts of the world, receiving adequate dental care can be nearly impossible. This harsh reality means that dental problems and pain often go completely untreated. For children, this affects their ability to eat and attend school. For adults, this inhibits their ability to care for family and find meaningful work.
- It is estimated that there are about 29 dentists per 100,000 people in the world. In some places, there is less than 1 dentist per 150,000.
- In Brazil, an estimated 8 million people do not have teeth, 60 million do not brush their teeth, and 30 million have never been to a dentist.
- 60–90% of school children and nearly 100% of adults have dental cavities.
- About 30% of people aged 65–74 have no natural teeth.
- Severe periodontal (gum) disease, which may result in tooth loss, is found in 15–20% of middle-aged adults.