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Prevalence of periodontitis

CDC survey finds ‘high burden’ of disease among adults

Roughly half of American adults aged 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey data reported Aug. 30.

Image: Dr. Pamela McClain
Dr. Pamela McClain

“Periodontal disease is an important public health problem in the United States,” said the study published in the Journal of Dental Research, official publication of the International and American Associations for Dental Research.

“This is the most accurate picture of periodontal disease in the U.S. adult population we have ever had,” said Dr. Pamela McClain, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and a practicing periodontist in Aurora, Colo. “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.”

An estimated 47.2 percent, or 64.7 million American, have mild, moderate or severe periodontitis, or gum disease, according to an analysis of data collected as part of CDC’s 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Survey. Prevalence rates increase to 70.1 percent for adults 65 and older.

The data also indicate certain prevalence disparities. Periodontal disease is higher in men than women, 56.4 and 38.4 percent respectively, and highest in Mexican-Americans, 66.7 percent, compared to other races. The prevalence rate is 64.2 percent for current smokers, 65.4 percent for adults living below the federal poverty level and 66.9 percent for adults with less than a high school education.  

The survey included for the first time a full-mouth periodontal examination, “making it the most comprehensive survey of oral health ever conducted in the United States,” said an AAP press release. The Academy has been working with the CDC since 2003 to determine the extent, severity and prevalence of periodontal disease. This is the first national probability sample that employed a full-mouth periodontal examination protocol versus partial mouth examinations, the Associations for Dental Research said.  

The data support the need for comprehensive periodontal evaluations performed annually by a member of the dental team including a dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist, the AAP said. This includes examining every tooth and measuring both attachment loss and probing depth to get the most accurate assessment of periodontal disease, said Dr. McClain. “Many of our patients have periodontal disease and do not know it. As dental professionals, it is more important than ever that we provide patients with a comprehensive periodontal evaluation annually to determine their disease status.”

“We have demonstrated a high burden of periodontal disease in the adult U.S. population, especially among adults 65 and older,” said Paul Eke, Ph.D., the study’s lead author and a CDC epidemiologist. “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.”

“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,” said co-author Dr. Robert Genco, Distinguished Professor at The State University of New York at Buffalo and IADR/AADR past president.

NHANES studies are designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the United States. The study “Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010” estimated the prevalence, severity and extent of periodontitis in the adult U.S. population. Estimates were derived from a sample of 3742 civilian, non-institutionalized adults 30 years and older with one or more natural teeth.