Oral Health Facts

At a glance

Review facts and data about general oral health in the United States.

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Fast facts

  • Oral health is essential to general health and well-being.
  • Oral disease can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, and learning. It can also affect social interactions, academic achievement, and job potential.1
  • The three oral conditions that most affect overall health and quality of life are cavities, severe gum disease, and severe tooth loss.2
  • By age 8, over half of children (52%) have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth.3
  • Children from low-income households are twice as likely to have cavities as children from higher-income households.3
  • 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 64 has at least one untreated cavity.3
  • Drinking fluoridated water and getting dental sealants (in childhood) prevent cavities and save money by avoiding expensive dental care.45
  • Tobacco use and diabetes are two risk factors for gum disease.67
  • On average, 34 million school hours are lost each year because of unplanned (emergency) dental care, and over $45 billion in US productivity is lost each year due to untreated dental disease.89
  • Medical-dental integration between oral health and chronic disease prevention programs benefits patients and saves money.10
  1. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Oral Health in America: Advances and Challenges. US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health; 2021. Accessed October 27, 2023. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2021-12/Oral-Health-in-America-Advances-and-Challenges.pdf
  2. World Health Organization. Oral Health. 2020. Accessed April 3, 2020. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/oral-health
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health Surveillance Report: Trends in Dental Caries and Sealants, Tooth Retention, and Edentulism, United States, 1999–2004 to 2011–2016. US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2019.
  4. Community Preventive Services Task Force. Oral Health: Preventing Dental Caries, School-based Dental Sealant Delivery Programs. US Department of Health and Human Services; 2016. https://www.thecommunityguide.org/sites/default/files/assets/Oral-Health-Caries-School-based-Sealants_0.pdf [PDF-579KB]
  5. Community Preventive Services Task Force. Oral Health: Preventing Dental Caries, Community Water Fluoridation. US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017. https://www.thecommunityguide.org/sites/default/files/assets/Oral-Health-Caries-Community-Water-Fluoridation_2.pdf [PDF-590KB]
  6. Leite RFM, Nascimento GG, Scheutz F, Lopez R. Effects of smoking on periodontitis: a systematic review and meta-regression. Am J Prev Med. 2018; 54(6):831–841.
  7. Leite RS, Marlow NM, Fernandes JW, Hermayer K. Oral health and type 2 diabetes. Am J Med Sci. 2013;345(4):271–273.
  8. Naavaal S, Kelekar U. School hours lost due to acute/unplanned dental care. Health Behav Policy Rev. 2018;5(2);66–73.
  9. Righolt AJ, Jevdjevic M, Marcenes W, Listl S. Global-, regional-, and country-level economic impacts of dental diseases in 2015. J Dent Res. 2018;97(5):501–507.
  10. Atchison KA, Weintraub JA, Rozier RG. Bridging the dental-medical divide: case studies integrating oral health care and primary health care. J Am Dent Assoc. 2018;149(10):850-858.