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Dental, Oral and Craniofacial
Data Resource Center


Oral Health, U.S. 2002 Annual Report
section 4: TOOTH LOSS
4.2 Adults with 21 or more teeth

The presence of 21 or more natural teeth has been used internationally as a marker for a functional dentition, or one which provides the ability "to eat, speak, and socialize without active disease, discomfort, or embarrassment" without the need for full or partial dentures (Adult Dental Health Survey, 1998).

Although tooth retention has greatly improved over the past few decades, a significant percentage of older Americans do not have functional dentitions (Burt & Eklund, 1999). Since the effects of tooth loss increase as more teeth are lost, this indicator gives a broader perspective than indicators measuring the presence or absence of all teeth.

While the absolute number of teeth is very important, people's satisfaction with their mouth and their ability to function also depend on having anterior teeth and opposing (or occluding) pairs of natural teeth that facilitate chewing, and on the absence of disease (Elias & Sheiham, 1999). National data on occluding pairs of teeth will be collected starting in 2003.

SOURCES OF DATA
Analyses reported here are based on the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) 1988�1994, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


  • Among the U.S. population aged 20 years and older, 71.7% had 21 or more natural teeth, compared to 42.4% of those aged 50 years and older.
  • Differences by age and race/ethnicity (Figure 4.2.1)
    • The percentage of people with 21 or more teeth was progressively lower in older age groups.
    • At all age groups between ages 30 and 79, a lower percentage of non-Hispanic blacks had 21 or more teeth than either non-Hispanic whites or Mexican Americans.
  • Demographic differences among those aged 50 and older
    • The percentage of people with 21 or more teeth was greatest for those with more than a 12th grade education, followed by high school graduates and those with less than a 12th grade education (Figure 4.2.2).
    • For both those living below and at or above the federal poverty level a higher percentage of Mexican Americans had 21 or more teeth (Figure 4.2.3).
    • A higher percentage of people at or above the federal poverty level had 21 or more teeth than did people below the federal poverty level (Figure 4.2.3).

Bullets reference data that can be found in Tables 4.2.1 and 4.2.2.

REFERENCES
Adult Dental Health Survey: Oral Health in the United Kingdom. Office for National Statistics. 1998

Burt BA, Eklund SA. Dentistry, dental practice, and the community. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Co., 1999.

Elias AC, Sheiham A. The relationship between satisfaction with mouth and number, and position of teeth. Journal of Oral Rehabilitation 1998;25:649�661.

Figure 4.2.1. Percentage of adults aged 20 and older with 21 or more teeth by age and race/ethnicity

Bar graph representing Percentage of adults aged 20 and older with 21 or more teeth by age and race/ethnicity. Description of graph in following D link[D]

Data source: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) 1988�1994, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Figure 4.2.2. Percentage of adults aged 50 and older with 21 or more teeth by education*

Bar graph representing Percentage of adults aged 50 and older with 21 or more teeth by education. Description of graph in following D link[D]

*Age standardized to the year 2000 U.S. population.

Data source: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) 1988�1994, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Figure 4.2.3. Percentage of adults aged 50 and older with 21 or more teeth by race/ethnicity and federal poverty level (FPL)*

Bar graph representing Percentage of adults aged 50 and older with 21 or more teeth by race/ethnicity and federal poverty level (FPL). Description of graph in following D link[D]

*Age standardized to the year 2000 U.S. population.

Data source: The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) 1988�1994, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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