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SCIENCE REPORT – February 13, 2002: Oral Health Study - 2002-02-12

This is the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A new report examines the problem of tooth and gum disease in the United States. It found that many Americans are not doing enough to care for their teeth. The report says the biggest problems are the lack of dental health care for all Americans and the lack of services to prevent disease.

A group called Oral Health America in Chicago, Illinois, released the findings. It used information from recent government studies to prepare the report. The group’s leader says the report shows the nation needs to be more concerned about the oral health of its citizens.

One major problem is tooth decay. Bacteria in the mouth act on sugars that remain on the teeth after eating. This action creates acid that damages the tooth. The damage appears as a hole in the tooth called a cavity. The part of the tooth that has been destroyed by the acid is called tooth decay.

There are many reasons for diseases of the teeth and gums. The report says many areas in the United States fail to add enough fluoride to public drinking water. It notes that ten states failed to provide fluoridated water for at least fifty percent of their population. Fluoride is an element found in rocks and minerals. Drinking fluoridated water is one of the best ways to prevent tooth decay.

The report shows that many Americans do not have their teeth examined by a dentist or trained expert. In most states, one-third or more of the citizens failed to visit a dentist at least once last year.

In addition, a person’s earnings seemed to have a major effect on the services received. Poor people are less likely to visit a dentist. More than one-hundred-million American adults and children do not have insurance to help pay for treatment by a dentist.

One area of progress is increased public understanding of oral health issues. The report notes that several states now employ dental health directors. Oral Health America says the increased understanding is partly a result of American Surgeon General David Satcher. Two years ago, he released a report on the importance of oral health.

His report noted that more than thirty-thousand Americans develop cancers in the mouth or throat every year. It also found that tooth decay is the most common disease among American children. Fifty percent of all six-year-old children already have tooth decay.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by George Grow.