Decline in complete tooth loss for older adults spurs talk about access to care

Mary Otto

About Mary Otto

Mary Otto, a Washington, D.C.-based freelancer, is AHCJ's topic leader on oral health and the author of "Teeth: The Story of Beauty, Inequality, and the Struggle for Oral Health in America." She can be reached at mary@healthjournalism.org.

More Americans are keeping their natural teeth throughout their lifetimes, federal research tells us.

Overall, the rate of U.S. adults who have experienced complete tooth loss fell from 9.3% in 2000 to 7% in 2017, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. The trend holds true across all age groups, researchers found.

Between the years 2000 and 2017, edentulism – complete tooth loss — declined from 2.9% to 2.3% among US adults between the ages of 18 and 44; from 10.1% to 6.5% among adults between the ages of 45 and 64; from 25.6% to 14.2% among adults aged 65–74 , and from 34% to 24.9% among adults 75 years old or older.

The findings, gleaned from the National Health Interview Survey and based upon household interviews with a sampling of the nation’s civilian, noninstitutionalized population, were published as a QuickStats chart in the June 7 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

A variety of factors contribute to edentulism and rates differ among states and across income and racial groups. The fact that more Americans are keeping their teeth into old age is spurring conversations about the need to expand access to care.

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