School Years and Beyond

Oral health is a smart investment—we can prevent decay. The consequences of untreated decay include ER visits for dental pain and lost time at school and work.

Impact of Tooth Decay:

  • A national survey found that roughly 1 in 7 children ages 6-12 had suffered a toothache in the previous six months

  • Children with poor oral health were nearly 3 times more likely to miss school due to dental pain, according to a North Carolina study.

  • In a Los Angeles study, dental problems were responsible for about 1/3 of elementary school absences, among children from economically vulnerable families.

  • Children reporting recent toothaches were 4 times more likely to have a lower grade-point average than their peers without dental pain.

  • Prevention pays off. The average cost of applying a dental sealant to a child’s permanent teeth—a practice that reduces the risk of decay—is roughly one-third the cost of filling a cavity.

The bacteria that causes tooth decay is a chronic condition that typically lasts into adulthoodwith new costs and consequences.

  • Health equity is an issue for adults too. The CDC found that "over 40% of poor adults (20 years and older) have at least one untreated decayed tooth compared to 16% of non-poor adults."

  • It even affects national security. Defense department officials have called oral health "essential to readiness" of our military forces. The Army reports that more than 1 in 5 National Guard and Reserve soldiers required dental treatments before they could be deployed overseas for Operation Desert Storm. And a 2008 report revealed that 52% of new military recruits had dental problems that delayed their deployment overseas.

  • Poor oral health can affect adults' job prospects and social lives. CNBC reported that most employers "make instant judgments based on appearance, including someone’s smile and teeth.” A 2008 study found that people with missing front teeth were viewed as less intelligent, less desirable and less trustworthy than people with a healthy smile.

  • Dental disease is linked to broader health problems, including cardiovascular disease and strokes. Research has even linked poor oral health with Alzheimer's Disease.

  • A 2013 survey of Los Angeles residents with dental insurance found that 51% delayed dental care because of concerns about the cost.

  • Out-of-pocket spending for dental services—costs not paid by insurance—accounts for about 40% of all dental expenditures

  • The lifetime cost of treating one decayed molar ranges from $2,187 to $6,105.

  • Americans made an estimated 830,590 visits to hospital emergency rooms in 2009 for dental conditions that were preventable.

  • Prevention pays off. In most cities, every $1 spent on water fluoridation saves $38 in dental costs. Researchers estimate that in 2003 Colorado saved nearly $149 million in dental treatment costs because of fluoride in the public water supplies. And a Texas study revealed that fluoridation saved taxpayers $24 per child, per year in state Medicaid costs.

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children ages 6-12 suffered a toothache in the previous six months.
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