Oral health is an essential part of a person’s overall health. Poor oral health can lead to pain, discomfort, and infections, and can hinder the ability to speak, eat, learn, and work.

Untreated tooth decay is a serious problem across the United States. In 2011-2012, around 15% of children and adolescents ages 8 - 17 and 25% of adults ages 35 – 44 had untreated dental caries (cavities). Without treatment, these cavities may become serious and need emergency treatment. In fact, oral health-related emergency department visits nearly doubled from 2000 to 2010, from 1.1 million to 2.1 million.

Emergency dental care received in hospital settings is costly and inefficient.  While emergency dental care may lessen a person’s immediate pain, most hospital emergency visits do little to solve the dental problem, requiring a dental referral for further evaluation and treatment. Early and regular dental care prevents the need for emergency dental care in a hospital setting.

The oral health of Iowans is similar to the rest of the US.  Nearly 30% of Iowa adults have not been to a dentist in the last year according to a 2016 survey, slightly below the national average. Nearly one in five adults is missing all of their teeth (17%), whereas three in four children report excellent or very good teeth (72%).

Encouraging Oral Health

Routine dental visits are essential for ensuring optimal oral health. Dental exams and X-rays can help identify issues early before they become severe and require more advanced treatment. Services such as cleanings and fluoride and sealant applications have been proven to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

In addition to dental visits, following these practices can help keep your mouth healthy:

  • Eat a healthy diet, especially one avoiding sugary foods and beverages
  • Avoid tobacco use
  • Practice proper home care, including  daily brushing and flossing

Oral Health Resource Links