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Oral Health

Oral Health Across the Life Stages

Poor oral health affects Americans at all life stages, from infancy through older adulthood. For example:

Children and Adolescents

  • Tooth decay affects more than 1 in 4 U.S. children age 2 to 5.
  • Tooth decay affects 1 in 2 U.S. adolescents age 12 to 15.


  • 1 in 7 adults age 35 to 44 has gum disease; after age 65, the rate increases to 1 in 4.

Older Adults

  • 1 in 4 U.S. adults age 65 or older have lost all of their teeth.
  • More than 7,800 people, mostly older Americans, die from oral and pharyngeal (mouth and throat) cancers each year.8

Determinants of Oral Health

The ability to access oral health care is associated with gender, age, education level, income, race and ethnicity, access to medical insurance, and geographic location. Addressing these determinants is key in reducing health disparities and improving the health of all Americans. Efforts are needed to overcome barriers to access to oral health care caused by geographic isolation, poverty, insufficient education, and lack of communication skills.


8National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Cavities, Gum Disease, Tooth Loss, and Oral Cancers: At a Glance 2011. Atlanta, GA: 2011. Available from

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