Why Oral Health Matters

/Why Oral Health Matters
Why Oral Health Matters 2017-08-10T13:35:24+00:00


Joyce McNamee and Dr. Robert Yarbro

Dan Pelle / The Spokesman Review

Spokane is known for caring about our children. We are proud of the fact that Spokane’s Access to Baby and Child Dentistry (ABCD) Program, connecting low-income children with dentists trained in working with young children, is a recognized model across Washington State. Even with an exceptional program such as the ABCD program in Spokane, a kindergarten student in Spokane is more likely to have rampant decay than other children across the state.

  • 6 in 10 Spokane third-graders have experienced tooth decay and,
  • 1 in 5 third-graders has rampant tooth decay – meaning at least seven teeth are decayed or filled because of cavities.

Children with poor oral health are nearly 3 times more likely to miss school — and 4 times more likely to earn lower grades [1].  Although cavity rates have dropped significantly over the past 40 years, tooth decay remains the most common chronic disease of childhood [2].  Dental disease among children is five times more common than asthma and seven time more common than hay fever.


Oral health status for adults is just as important as for children. Unfortunately, 1 in 3 Spokane County adults have lost one or more teeth to decay; 5% have lost all their teeth. [3]

An individual’s oral health status may impact or be impacted by other health conditions. Individuals with diabetes have difficulty responding to infection and are more susceptible to periodontal (gum) disease. The percentage of adults with a history of a heart attack that have lost one or more of their teeth, is statically significant. According to a survey conducted by the Spokane Regional Health District:[4]

  • 6% of diabetics surveyed had lost all their teeth, compared to 4.2% of those without diabetes.
  • 21% of adults whom have had a heart attack have all their teeth versus 65% of those who had not experienced a heart attack.

In today’s service sector economy, appearance matters. Adults who have unhealthy or missing teeth are at a disadvantage with interviewing for many jobs.“In America, most people – including employer’s make instant judgments based on appearance, including someone’s smile and teeth.” [5]

Regardless of age, the benefits of good oral health are significant. Perhaps the Centers for Disease Control  says it the best, “Oral health affects our ability to speak, smile, eat, and show emotions. It also affects self-esteem, school performance, and attendance at work and school. Oral diseases—which range from cavities to gum disease to oral cancer—cause pain and disability for millions of Americans. They also cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year.” We encourage you to learn more, you will be glad you did!

[1] Study of North Carolina school-age children, 2010; study of Los Angeles teens conducted by USC, 2011
[2] “Dental Caries (Tooth Decay),” National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research, updated on May 28, 2014[3] Spokane Regional Health District. Ten Things You Need to Know About Oral Health in Spokane County. November 2010[4] Spokane Regional Health District. Healthy Smile, Healthy Life. Improving Oral Health in Spokane County. October 2010[5] JoNel Aleccia. Bad Teeth, Broken Dreams: Lack of Dental Care Keeps Many out of Jobs. CNBC Story. June 2013