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The World Health Organization defines oral health as a state of being free from chronic mouth and facial pain, oral and throat cancer, oral sores, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay and tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that affect the oral cavity.1
Policy basis for the WHO Oral Health Program include the following:
  • Oral health is integral and essential to general health.
  • Oral health is a determinant factor for quality of life.
  • Proper oral health care reduces premature mortality.
  • The burden of oral diseases on individuals and communities is considerable and given the extent of the problem, they are a major public health problem.2

  • Research has shown associations between chronic oral infections and heart and lung diseases, stroke, diabetes, and low-birth-weight, and premature births.
  • Poor oral health in children has been related to decreased school performance, poor social relationships and less success later in life.
  • An estimated 51 million school hours per year are lost in the U.S. because of dental-related illness.3
  • Employed adults in the United States lose more than 164 million hours of work each year as a result of oral health problems or dental visits.4
  • There is a shortage of dentists across the country impacting access to care including Medicaid dental providers.5
  • Emergency rooms across the country are providing services to those suffering from dental disease without completing treatment.5

According to the data from the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in 2012:
  • 30.3% of adults 18 and over had not visited a dentist or a dental clinic for any reason in the last 12 months.

3. (Gift HC. 1997. Oral health outcomes research: Challenges and opportunities. Measuring Oral Health and Quality of Life (pp.25-46). Chapel Hill, NC: Department of Dental Ecology, University of North Carolina), downloaded on 12/19/2014
4., downloaded on 12/22/2014
5., downloaded on 12/22/2014.
Numerous studies have found that age, infrequent dental visits, low education level, low income, comorbidities, and inclusion in certain racial or ethnic populations are associated with increased prevalence of dental disease.

Oral health barriers in Utah include:
  • Lack of dental insurance especially among the poor and the immigrants.
  • Limited adult Medicaid services.
  • Limited Medicaid dental providers.
  • Rural and frontier population.
  • Dental professional shortage in some areas especially for the low income population.
Strategies to reduce the burden of disease include:
  • Addressing access to care and calling to attention the benefits of good oral health.
  • Increasing the number of children receiving preventive services (dental sealants/fluoride varnish).
  • Increasing the number of residents consuming fluoridated water (Utah is well below the national average).

To address oral health issues in Utah, the state provides Medicaid funding for emergency adult dental services, and services for pregnant women and children.
The Utah Department of Health tracks oral health through:
  • Utah's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)
  • The Utah Oral Health Program's Basic Screening Survey of 6- to 9-year-old school children

The information provided above is from the Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 26 May 2019 4:58:34 from Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Mon, 10 Dec 2018 21:46:50 MST