The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Sept. 4, 2012, that half of American adults have periodontal disease, and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) praised the “most accurate picture of periodontal disease in the U.S. adult population we have ever had.”
The CDC collected data in 2009-2010 as part of its National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Researchers turned the data from 3,742 adults aged 30 years and older into estimates that 47% have mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis. The study, which was published in the Journal of Dental Research, also pointed out that 64% of adults 65 and older had either moderate or severe periodontitis.
Dr. Pamela McClain, the AAP president, said, “This is the most accurate picture of periodontal disease in the U.S. adult population we have ever had. For the first time, we now have a precise measure of the prevalence of periodontal disease, and can better understand the true severity and extent of periodontal disease in our country. The AAP values its collaboration with CDC to better understand the burden of periodontal disease in Americans."
The 2009-2010 NHANES included for the first time a full-mouth periodontal examination to assess for mild, moderate, or severe periodontitis. Gingivitis, the earliest stage of periodontal disease, was not assessed. Previous NHANES relied on partial mouth periodontal examinations and may have missed disease in teeth that were not examined. The AAP pointed out that, since periodontal disease is not evenly distributed in the mouth, estimates based on partial mouth examinations may have underestimated actual prevalence rates in the U.S. population by as much as 50%.
The findings also indicate disparities among certain segments of the U.S. population. Periodontal disease is higher in men than women (56.4 percent vs. 38.4 percent) and is highest in Mexican-Americans (66.7 percent) compared to other races. Other segments with high prevalence rates include current smokers (64.2 percent); those living below the federal poverty level (65.4 percent); and those with less than a high school education (66.9 percent).
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According to Paul Eke, MPH, PhD, lead author and CDC epidemiologist, the findings may drive public health policy. "We have demonstrated a high burden of periodontal disease in the adult U.S. population, especially among adults 65 and older. Periodontal disease is associated with age, and as Americans live longer and retain more of their natural teeth, periodontal disease may take on more prominence in the oral health of the U.S. adult population. Maintaining good periodontal health is important to the overall health and well-being of our aging population. Our findings support a need for public health programs to improve the oral health of adults."
Co-author Robert Genco, DDS, PhD, Distinguished Professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo and Past President of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR), believes these findings elevate periodontal disease as a public health concern. "We now know that periodontal disease is one of the most prevalent non-communicable chronic diseases in our population, similar to cardiovascular disease and diabetes."
Surveillance of periodontal disease in the U.S. adults will continue through the 2014 NHANES to include more racial and ethnic segments of the population. Both CDC and AAP support additional efforts to continue to understand periodontal disease prevalence trends. This data will guide public health policy decisions including appropriate prevention and treatment recommendations.