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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 infection and sores, periodontal (gum) disease, tooth decay, tooth loss, and other diseases and disorders that limit an individual's capacity in biting, chewing, smiling, speaking, ans psychosocial wellbeing."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 mortality2

1., downloaded on 03/07/2019.
2., downloaded on 03/07/2019.

Why It's Important

  • 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.

What Is Known

  • In 2008 there were 320.8 million work or school hours lost annually for dental care in the United States, of which 92.4 million hours were for emergency (unplanned) care.3
  • In 2017, the dentist to 100,000 population ratio for Utah was 59.7 compared to the U.S. at 61.7.4
  • The first ever Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health in America was in 2000.5 A new report has been commissioned for 2020.6
  • Oral diseases and disorders in and of themselves affect health and well-being throughout life.5
  • There are profound and consequential oral health disparities within the U.S. population.5

According to the data from the Utah Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) in 2016:
  • 27.0% of adults 18 and over had not visited a dentist or a dental clinic for any reason in the last 12 months.

3. Kelekar U, Naavaal S. Hours Lost to Planned and Unplanned Dental Visits Among US Adults. Prev Chronic Dis 2018;15:170225. DOI: Accessed 03/07/19 at
4. Utah Medical Education Council (2017). Utah's Dentist Workforce, 2017: A Study of the Supply and Distribution of Dentists in Utah. Salt Lake City, UT. Accessed 03/07/2019 from
5. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. Rockville, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, 2000. Accessed 03/07/2019 from
6. NIDCR News: 2020 Surgeon General's Report on Oral Health. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Accessed 03/07/2019 at

Who Is at Risk

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.

How To Reduce Risk

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.

How It's Tracked

The Utah Department of Health and Human Services 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 Utah Department of Health and Human Services IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Tue, 18 June 2024 13:02:25 from Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Fri, 12 Jan 2024 13:29:54 MST