Oral Health In America: Summary of the Surgeon General’s Report

Cover to Oral Health in America

The major message of the report is that oral health means much more than healthy teeth, and is integral to the general health and well-being of all Americans. Oral health must be included in the provision of health care and design of community programs.

Safe and effective means of maintaining oral health that everyone can adopt to improve oral health and prevent disease have benefited the majority of Americans over the past half century. However, many experience needless pain and suffering, complications that can devastate overall health and well-being, and financial and social costs that significantly diminish the quality of life.

Action at all levels of society, from individuals to communities and the Nation as a whole, are needed to maintain the health and well-being of Americans already enjoying good oral health and to address the disparities in oral health status. A coordinated effort can overcome the educational, environmental, social, health systems and financial barriers that have created vulnerable populations whose oral health is at risk.

Major Findings

  • Oral diseases and disorders in and of themselves affect health and well-being through life.
  • There are safe and effective measures to prevent the most common dental diseases – dental caries and periodontal diseases.
  • Lifestyle behaviors that affect general health such as tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and poor dietary choices affect oral and craniofacial health as well.
  • There are profound and consequential oral health disparities within the American population.
  • More information is needed to improve America’s oral health and eliminate health disparities.
  • The mouth reflects general health and well-being.
  • Oral diseases and conditions are associated with other health problems.
  • Scientific research is key to further reduction in the burden of diseases and disorders that affect the face, mouth, and teeth.

Framework for Action

The report provides a framework for action and suggests that a National Oral Health Plan be developed to improve quality of life and to eliminate health disparities. Specifically the report suggests the following components of the plan:

  • Change perceptions regarding oral health and disease so that oral health becomes an accepted component of general health.
  • Accelerate the building of the science and evidence base and apply science effectively to improve oral health.
  • Build an effective health infrastructure that meets the oral health needs of all Americans and integrates oral health effectively into overall health.
  • Remove known barriers between people and oral health services.
  • Use public-private partnerships to improve the oral health of those who still suffer disproportionately from oral diseases.

Related Links

From the Office of the Surgeon General
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
May 2000

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