Dentistry by the numbers

Sept. 18, 2001
The number of dental visits rose significantly during the last quarter of the 20th century.

The number of dental visits rose significantly during the last quarter of the 20th century. Recently, researchers presented new information about two groups contributing to the rise.

Individuals over 65 and preschoolers visit the dentist more frequently now than they did in the past, according to statistics compiled by researchers at the University of Maryland Dental School. Analyzing data from 1977-1996, they put a finer point on a trend reported by the Health Care Financing Administration, which found that the number of regular dental checkups increased by 70 percent from 1979-1990.

One reason people over 65 are thought to visit the dentist more is that toothlessness in 65- to 74-year-olds dropped by more than 36 percent from 1977 to 1996. This figure, submitted by an author of the Maryland study, corresponds to statistics reported by the Hope Health Newsletter. In 1960, people over 65 had, on average, seven of their original teeth and, by 2000, that number had risen to 24.

Couple this trend toward additional years of tooth retention with a coinciding trend toward longer life, and it�s easy to see that more people need dental services later in their lives than they once did.

Today, people also start dental checkups at a younger age.

Earlier studies indicated that 62 percent of 5- to 17-year-olds had at least one dental visit in a preceding year. The Maryland study noted that, since 1977, the number of dental visits by children younger than 6 rose � as a result of greater parental concern for baby teeth, an increase in the number of dentists treating small children, or a combination of both.

Seeking preventive dental care early, then regularly throughout life, should help people to keep their teeth and mouth healthy longer. Considering that chewing and enjoying food, speaking, and breathing clearly are among the things that contribute to good and comfortable living, it�s in our interest to do so.