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Seniors Tooth Decay
Tooth Decay (dental caries) in
Permanent (Adult) Teeth
5% of seniors age 65 and older have no teeth. This survey applies only to
those seniors who have teeth.
Tooth Decay (dental caries), both
treated and untreated, in seniors age 65 and older declined from the early
1970s until the most recent (1999-2004) National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey. The decrease was significant in all population
subgroups. In spite of this decline, significant disparities are still found
in some population groups.
Seniors 65 and older
have an average of 3.28 decayed or missing permanent teeth and 13.65
decayed and missing permanent surfaces.
and those with lower incomes have more severe decay in permanent teeth.
Black and Hispanic
subgroups and those with lower incomes have more untreated permanent
Units of Measure:
Tooth Decay (dental caries) is measured by a dentist examining a personís teeth, and
recording the ones with untreated decay and the ones with fillings. This
provides three important numbers:
(filled teeth): this is the number of decayed teeth that have been
treated, which indicates access to dental care;
(decayed and missing teeth): this is the number decayed and missing
teeth that have not been treated, which measures unmet need; and
(decayed, missing, and filled teeth): this is the sum of DMT and FT, and
is the measure of personís total lifetime tooth decay.
In addition to counting
decayed and filled teeth, this same information can be
gathered at the tooth surface level. Since every tooth has
multiple surfaces, counting the decayed or filled surfaces provides a more
accurate measure of the severity of decay.