Dental Divide Widens as Tooth Loss Declines

After tracking the trends of tooth loss over the last hundred years, scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have concluded that the number of people experiencing edentulism will decrease 30% by the year 2050. The researchers looked at population trends in U.S adults aged 15 and up over several different time frames, using the information to make projections about future populations. According to a recent Dental Tribune article,, the data was pulled from national health surveys from the following years:

  • 1957-1958 (100,000 adults)
  • 1971-1975 (14.655 adults)
  • 1988-1998 (18,011 adults)
  • 1999-2002 (12,336 adults)

Geographic and socio-demographic information was analyzed using an additional U.S. survey of 432,519 adults in 2010.

The analysis of data revealed that overall, edentulism (tooth loss) declined over the five-decade time period from approximately 19% in 1957-1958 to nearly 5% in 2009-2012. It was determined that the most influential factor in the decline was the passing of individuals born before the 1940s, whose rate of tooth loss far exceeded that of later generations. High-income households experienced a greater decline over low-income households as well.

By the year 2010, edentulism became exceptionally rare in high-income households while geographically becoming more isolated to states with higher poverty levels. With the passing of generations born in the mid-20th century, the rate of decline is expected to slow, but considering population growth and aging, the number of people in the United States with tooth loss is predicted to be 30% lower than the 12.2 million edentulous people in 2010. While overall, the outlook painted by the numbers is positive, a great divide was exposed. There is still much that needs to be done to reduce tooth loss in low-income populations.

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