Oral Health of America’s Hispanic Population

The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos is a multicenter study, funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute along with six other institutes, centers, and offices of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers have set out to determine the role of culture in the the development of diseases in hopes of identifying risk factors playing both protective and harmful roles.  Areas being investigated include cardiovascular disease, stroke, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, hearing impairment, sleep disorders, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, cognitive impairment, and oral health concerns, such as dental caries and periodontal disease. Recently the group has released data collected on the oral health aspect of Hispanics, finding that like other health areas being assessed, results varied widely among the population sub-groups (specifically Cuban, Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Central/South American), showing that Hispanics can no longer be grouped together when it comes to disease profiles.

16,000 Hispanics, ages 18 to 74 years, in four U.S. cities (Chicago, Miami, San Diego, and New York City) participated in the study between March 2008 and June 2011.  The following data was collected about oral health and published on the Latino news website, VOXXI:

  • The prevalence of decayed surfaces ranged from 20.2% to 35.5% among Hispanic sub-groups.

  • The prevalence of missing teeth ranged from 49.8% to 63.8% and differed according to background.

  • The overall prevalence of one or more decayed surfaces was 29.9% of participants.

  • One or more decayed surfaces ranged from 20.2% among those identifying as Dominicans to 35.5% among Central Americans.

  • The overall prevalence of Hispanics with one or more decayed or filled surfaces was 85%.

  • Cubans and Central Americans had a higher prevalence of root surface decay compared to other Hispanics.

  • 57% of Hispanics had at least one missing tooth.

  • Hispanics of Cuban, Dominican, Central American, and South American lineage had the highest rates of missing teeth.

  • Participants of Mexican background had the lowest prevalence of missing teeth.

  • Overall, 4.1% of Hispanics had missing teeth, with Cubans having the highest prevalence rate.

Researchers hope that the data can be used by medical practitioners in areas with high Hispanic populations to anticipate and practice based on specific patterns of treatment needs. With nearly 35% of Miami’s population being of Cuban descent, the data is of particular relevance as most dental professionals seek to serve their community in the best means possible.

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