Untreated tooth decay is nearly twice as common among Hispanic primary school children as non-Hispanic whites. Also, only 19 percent of working-age Hispanic adults in America have all of their teeth, compared to 35 percent of whites, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).
“The Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos,” an epidemiologic study, is an ongoing investigation into the health of those within the community. Within recent weeks, researchers shared information regarding the oral health of Hispanic subgroups, exposing the unique needs of the individual groups and the disparities that exist among Latinos of different national backgrounds.
Experts surveyed 16,000 Hispanics, ages 18-74, in Chicago, Miami, San Diego and New York, between March 2008 and June 2011. Findings showed that there was a prevalence of decayed surfaces, ranging from 20.2 percent to 35.5 percent among Hispanic subgroups, and the number of decayed and filled surfaces ranged from 82.7 percent to 87 percent.
“As oral health status is concerned, Hispanics and Latinos in the United States are not a homogeneous group,” conclude the authors of the cover story in the June issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA).
Overall, 85 percent of Hispanics have one or more decayed or filled surfaces. Twenty percent of Dominicans said to have had one or more decayed surfaces, while 35.5 percent of Central Americans indicated that they had decayed surfaces.
“These data indicate that Hispanics and Latinos in the United States receive restorative dental treatment and that practitioners should consider the association between Hispanic or Latino origin and oral health status,” researchers wrote. “This could mean that dental practices in areas dominated by patients from a single Hispanic or Latino background can anticipate a practice based on a specific pattern of treatment needs.”
Missing teeth ranged from 49.8 percent to 63.8 percent, and averaged to at least 57 percent of Hispanics missing one tooth or more. The subgroups with the highest number of missing teeth are Cubans, Dominicans, Central Americans and those of South American lineages. Mexican participants were least likely to have missing teeth (49.8 percent).
Along with having the highest rate of missing teeth, Cubans and Central Americans have a higher prevalence of root surface decay compared to other Hispanics.
The data reveals that there are significant differences in the number of decayed surfaces, decayed or filled surfaces and missing teeth in relation to an individual’s background, their age and their sex. The status of oral health is also different based on other factors, such as income and access to health care.
Latinos and Hispanics in the United States have access to restorative dental treatments, and practitioners should consider origins when examining oral health. Knowing a particular subgroup’s dental habits means that practitioners will be able to better anticipate treatment needs or help to direct patients to a practice that’s more understanding of their treatment needs.
Authors of the JADA report “The Prevalence of Caries and Tooth Loss Among Participants in the Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos” indicated that the findings were the first useful estimation of Hispanic oral health according to country or region of origin because of the large number of participants.