WASHINGTON — Millions of Americans with rotting teeth and other oral diseases cannot afford to see the dentist, the government reported Monday.
Americans' overall oral health has improved dramatically with the advent of fluoride and better dental education, the report by the Public Health Service said.
But minorities, the poor and the elderly still have too many cavities, untreated and decaying teeth and diseases from gingivitis to oral cancer, the service concluded.
Dr. Robert Collins, the service's chief dental officer, said: "About 150 million people do not have dental insurance . . . and very little is provided by the government to the poor."
More than half of children ages 5 to 17 have cavities, the report said.
A fourth of them--mostly minorities plus the poor and those whose parents didn't finish high school--get 75% of the cavities. Ninety-one percent of Native Americans have at least one by age 15, making them the most affected group.
About 12% of white children have decayed teeth, compared with 27.2% of minorities; 69.6% of minority children get cavities filled, compared to 87.5% of whites.