Preventing Oral Diseases and Conditions in Communities

Key points

  • Good oral health is a part of having a healthy body.
  • Oral health can even affect employment options.
  • Improved oral health leads to healthy communities.


Oral health has a direct effect on your body, mind, emotional, social, and career wellness. Many things determine your oral health. For example, you are more likely to have good oral health if your community provides access to affordable healthy foods, dental insurance, and preventive services.

Good oral health means lower rates of cancers, better control of diabetes, and fewer opioid prescriptions. It also means less time away from school for children, improved work productivity, and longer life.

Children, adults, and older adults everywhere deserve an equal chance to have good oral health. We can do that by using resources well and preventing oral diseases and conditions at every age.

Prevention steps and strategies

State and community actions

  • Increase options for affordable healthy foods for people of all ages. Healthy foods strengthen bones, teeth, and gums to prevent disease.
  • Support Quitlines and smokefree policies. Tobacco products, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and smokeless tobacco are linked to head and neck cancer.
  • Provide connection to human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination resources. About 70% of cancers in the throat (oropharynx) are linked to HPV.
  • Permit oral health providers, like dental hygienists, to do all the dental work that state law allows. Providers do all that they are permitted means greater access to care.
  • Support a variety of providers in their ability to apply fluoride varnish in all health care settings to prevent cavities.
  • Participate in school dental sealant programs to prevent cavities in children and adolescents. Health care groups usually receive grants to do sealants and need permission from school administrators to operate in schools.
  • Adjust naturally occurring fluoride levels in water to the best level to prevent cavities. When citizens ask for it, city leaders can allow water systems to improve fluoride levels.

Why prevention is important

Economy and resources

  • The US loses over $45 billion in productivity each year because of untreated oral disease.1 This means fewer tax dollars for roads, job training, schools, and parks.
  • There are more than 2 million emergency room visits each year for dental emergencies. Medicaid pays almost $1,000 for every visit, much more than the cost of a visit to the dentist.2 This money could have helped more people receive medical care.
  • Providing dental sealants to the nearly 7 million children from low-income households who need them could save up to $300 million in dental treatment costs.3 Dental sealants prevent cavities from ever starting.
  • Across the nation, adjusting natural fluoride levels saves $6.5 billion in dental treatment costs. Communities of 1,000 or more see a payback of $20 for every $1 spent on water fluoridation.4
  • Almost 1 in 5 Americans live in areas with too few dental providers. As a result, they have worse oral health over their lifespan.5

What CDC is doing

CDC's Division of Oral Health provides leadership to improve the nation's oral health by:

  • Helping states and territories improve their oral health programs by providing funding, technical assistance, and training.
  • Supporting the integration of medicine and dentistry to increase access to care and improve care coordination for chronic diseases associated with poor oral health.
  • Supporting national data collection through public health surveillance systems, funding state health departments' data collection on oral diseases, and providing data to researchers and the public.
  • Contributing to the scientific knowledge regarding oral health and disease with surveillance reports and journal articles.
  • Strengthening the workforce with a dental public health specialty residency training program.
  • Promoting proven prevention steps to reduce disease, such as community water fluoridation and school dental sealant programs, especially for populations at highest risk.
  • Serving as the national leader in infection prevention and control for the dental community, creating guidelines as well as trainings and resources.
  1. 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.
  2. Health Policy Institute. Emergency Department Visits for Dental Conditions — A Snapshot. American Dental Association; 2020. Accessed December 13, 2023.
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vital Signs: Dental Sealants Prevent Cavities. 2016. Accessed December 13, 2023.
  4. O'Connell JM, Rockwell J, Ouellet J, Tomar SL, Maas W. Costs and savings associated with community water fluoridation in the United States. Health Aff. 2016;35(12):2224–2232.
  5. Bureau of Health Workforce, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Designated Health Professional Shortage Areas Statistics: Designated HPSA Quarterly Summary, as of November 1, 2023 Accessed December 13, 2024.