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The Need

Oral health is vital to a person’s overall well-being. There is a well-established relationship between gum disease, heart disease and stroke. A dental exam can save someone’s life, as it can detect the first signs of oral cancer, AIDS, diabetes, drug use and domestic violence. However, oral healthcare is often overlooked.


The Facts


  • In 2013, St. Thomas Health conducted a Community Health Needs Assessment and identified dental health as the third most important health need in middle Tennessee.


  • Tennessee ranks 47th in the nation for level of overall oral health.


  • In Tennessee, 25% of adults ages 18–64 have lost six or more teeth due to dental disease—twice the national average.


  • 40% of poor individuals have at least one untreated cavity, compared to only 16% of the non-poor.

  • In America, more than 164 million hours of work are lost each year due to oral health issues and dentist visits.


  • More than 1 in 4 Americans (27%) say they have oral health issues that they’d like to address, but often are prohibited by their inability to pay for the work (cited by 62% of those with unresolved issues).


  • Poor oral health affects every area of a person’s life. Tooth loss and noticeable decay can severely limit job opportunities. Severe pain causes absenteeism and decreases job performance. Children with untreated decay experience persistent pain, poor nutrition, and poor concentration. Senior citizens often suffer from poor nutrition, limited social interactions, and problems speaking.

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