New CDC report on health disparities includes chapter on disparities in periodontitis

November 22, 2013 – Chicago – A report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes, for the first time, a discussion of health disparities and inequalities within periodontal disease prevalence in the United States. The report, “CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report — United States, 2013,” is the second in a series to highlight discrepancies across a variety of diseases by sex, race, ethnicity, income, education, disability status and other social characteristics.

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The report finds that while nearly half of U.S. adults aged 30 or older have periodontal disease, the prevalence is significantly higher in non-Hispanic Blacks and Mexican Americans compared to non-Hispanic Whites. In addition, periodontitis is higher in men than in women; in people with less than a high school education; in people of lower income levels; and in current and former smokers. The report is based on an analysis of the 2009-2010 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) has been working closely with the CDC since 2003 to determine the extent, severity and prevalence of periodontal disease in the U.S. According to Dr. Stuart J. Froum, DDS, President of the AAP, clinical professor and Director of Clinical Research in the Department of Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at New York University Dental Center, the inclusion of periodontal disease in this report indicates a significant public health concern.

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“Almost 65 million US adults have some form of periodontal disease, and certain populations are more vulnerable than others,” says Dr. Froum. “I commend the CDC for drawing attention to the disparities that exist within periodontal disease prevalence. These findings support a need for both local and national public health programs to improve the periodontal health of all adults, regardless of age, race or education.”

The AAP recommends that all patients receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation on an annual basis as a way to effectively assess for disease. “The insidious and sometimes asymptomatic nature of periodontal disease means that many patients may have periodontal disease, but do not know it. As dental professionals, it is crucial we ensure that our patients are being screened annually via a comprehensive periodontal evaluation to determine their disease status and treat accordingly.”

A previous study – published last year – showed that periodontal disease affects a large percentage of U.S. adults. Overall, for 2009–2010, an estimated 47% of adults aged 30 years and older had periodontitis; this increases to 70% for adults aged 65 years and older. The new CDC disparities report is available online at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/ind2013_su.html.


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Also available this month – in the Journal of Dental Research – is a new study on the use of self-report questions developed to determine the population prevalence of periodontitis. The study, “Self-reported Measures for Surveillance of Periodontitis,” uses NHANES 2009–2010 data to evaluate the performance of eight potential self-report questions in predicting periodontitis. Subjects answered questions about gum health and treatment history, loose teeth, bone loss around teeth and tooth not looking right, and use of dental floss and mouthwash. Responses to these questions were tested for their ability to predict periodontitis cases based on a full-mouth clinical assessment. The study confirms that the self-report questions performed well in predicting periodontitis in U.S. adults. The goal is to develop this option for states/communities where it is not feasible to use a clinical assessment for surveillance of periodontitis. Locally developed variants of these self-reported measures may allow states/communities to conduct surveillance of periodontal disease. This study was conducted in collaboration with the American Academy of Periodontology. The report is available at http://jdr.sagepub.com/content/92/11/1041.abstract.

For more information about the American Academy of Periodontology, visit www.perio.org.

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