Why Develop, Expand, Integrate, or
Enhance Community Oral Health Programs?
In May 2000, Surgeon General David Satcher released
Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General,3 the
General’s report on oral health. The report identifies the
need for a national effort to improve oral health among all Americans
and stresses the relationship between oral health and general health.
The overarching message of Oral Health in America is that oral
health means much more than healthy teeth and that it is integral
to general health and well-being. Therefore, oral health must be
included in the provision of health care and in the design of community
programs. The report calls for an increase in quality and years
of life and for the elimination of health disparities through a
national partnership that would provide opportunities for individuals,
communities, and the health professions to work together to maintain
and improve the nation’s oral health.
and Dental Disease
- Dental caries represents the most common
chronic disease among children.
- Dental caries is five times more common in children
Children loose an estimated 51 million school hours
per year because of dental-related illness.
The Surgeon General’s report describes a “silent epidemic” of
oral diseases affecting the health of Americans. For example,
- 78% of 17-year-olds have had tooth decay, with an average of 7
affected tooth surfaces.
98% of 40–44-year-olds have had tooth decay, with an average
of 45 affected tooth surfaces.
- Three out of every 10 Americans over age
65 have no teeth at all.
Those who suffer the worst oral health
include Americans with low incomes—especially children
and the elderly, members of racial and ethnic minority groups,
and individuals with disabilities and
complex health conditions. The 108 million Americans
who lack dental insurance also experience particularly poor
health. This group
includes uninsured children, who are 2.5 times more likely
than insured children to suffer from untreated oral disease.
In 2003, the Surgeon General’s National
Call to Action to Promote Oral Health6 was released. The
National Call to Action further describes the burden of oral diseases and disorders and
puts forth a series of action steps to promote oral health. These
steps stress the need to change perceptions of oral health; overcome
barriers to oral health by replicating effective programs and proven
efforts; build the science base to better understand diseases and
accelerate the transfer of science into public health and private
practice; increase the capacity, diversity, and flexibility of
the oral health work force; and increase collaboration between
the private and public sectors to effect disease prevention and
oral health promotion.