Here at the Dental Health Society, we like to keep tabs on how we as a country are doing in terms of dental health—and on how well our dentists are doing to serve the general population. Dental health stats help.
Luckily, a number of other organizations do this as well, including the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the American Dental Association (ADA), the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), and a host of independent dental health care providers and reporters.
Here, we’ve gathered some important dental health stats that we feel paint a picture of the overall dental health care of our nation. To summarize, it looks like we as a nation are doing OK when it comes to the basics. But there is a lot more we can do when it comes to things like scheduling regular visits, preventing dental emergencies, helping people straighten their smile, and getting more diversity in dental offices.
So let’s start with the biggest question:
Are We Getting Enough Dental Health Care?
Of all the dental health stats out there, these are the most important. We consistently hear that roughly one-quarter of U.S. adults are underserved when it comes to health care, and it shows. Often, when money is tight, dental health care is the first to be cut from budgets:
- In 2017, 41% of U.S. adults are said to be in excellent oral health. 31% are in good health, while 28% are in fair or poor dental health. (source: Statista)
- Dental visits drop when we become adults. 8 out of 10 kids have seen a dentist in the past year, while only 6 out of 10 adults have. (source: CDC)
- More than 1 in 4 (27%) adults in the United States have untreated tooth decay. (source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, via the CDC)
- Nearly half (46%) of all adults aged 30 years or older show signs of gum disease.
- When budgets are tight, dental care is often the first health care expense to go (8.9% of the population vs. 5.3% for prescription drugs, 4.8% for prescription eyewear, and 1.7% for mental health treatment). (source: ADA)
Untreated dental health problems, along with problems due to accidents, created an untold burden on us and our health care system:
- On average, someone visits a hospital emergency department for dental conditions approximately once every 15 seconds. (source: ADA)
- In the U.S. alone, over $2 billion was spent in 2015 on hospital emergency department visits specifically for dental conditions. (source: ADA)
Cavities, Tooth Decay, and Fillings
Cavities (dental caries) are still one of the most common forms of dental health problem. We have the most comprehensive dental health stats on cavities across age groups, and they show just how common dental caries are:
- 42% of children age 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth. Boys have them more often than girls, and those above the poverty line have them less often than those below the poverty line. (source: NIDCR)
- 23% of children 2 to 11 have dental caries that go untreated, causing problems later in life and requiring multiple fillings, root canals, or pulling of teeth. (source: NIDCR)
- 92% of adults 20 to 64 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth at some point in their lives. (source: NIDCR)
- 26% of all adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have untreated decay. (source: NIDCR)
- Smokers and former smokers are not more likely to have had cavities but are at greater risk for periodontal disease (gum disease). (source: NIDCR)
If you suspect you have a cavity, see our “I Think I Have a Cavity—What Now?”
Dentists and Dentist Offices
We are fortunate in this country to have a ready supply of qualified dentists, although the exact number depends upon where you live (for example, there are more dentists in high-density urban areas than in rural areas).
- As of 2017, there are 198,517 dentists in the U.S. That means roughly 61 dentists per 100,000 people, although this ratio varies a lot depending on where you live. (source: ADA supply and profile of dentists)
- More dentists these days are female, compared to the profession 10 years ago. However, the dental profession still struggles with racial diversity. (source: ADA)
- Over the past five years, North Dakota, Nebraska, and Texas have seen the largest increases in dental fees, while Washington and California have seen the biggest decline. (source: ADA report on practice management)
Need to find a dentist for cavity filling or other procedures? See our “Finding a Dentist for Cavity Filling in 3 Easy Steps.”
Cosmetic Dentistry, Braces, and Invisalign
Outside of basic dental health, cosmetic dentistry seems to be the biggest area of concern people have. The majority of people hate how their smile looks, even as they recognize the importance of a beautiful smile in life:
- Only 35% of adults in the U.S. have well-aligned teeth. (source: The International Journal of Adult Orthodontics and Orthognathic Surgery)
- 42% of people surveyed confess that their teeth are the #1 thing they would change about their body. (source: Daily Mail)
- 35% admit to being embarrassed about the appearance of their teeth. (source: Daily Mail)
- Roughly 81% of people worry about how their teeth will look in photos, while 28% of people admit to hiding their teeth while posing for them. (source: Daily Mail)
- 74% of adults in the U.S. agree that an unattractive smile can hurt a person’s chances for career success. (source: American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD))
- 96% of adults believe an attractive smile makes a person more appealing to members of the opposite sex. (source: AACD)
- There have been roughly 5.5 million treatments with Invisalign and counting. (source: Invisalign) Most people who get invisalign say they would do so if they had to do it all over again. (See our article “Invisalign Reviews: Is Invisalign Really Worth It?“)
If you are ready to give Invisalign, or simply give it a try, read more on how to get Invisalign.
Do any of these stats make you think it’s time to schedule an appointment? Or find a dentist near you? Use our handy dentist finder tool to find a location and ask about services.