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Press Release

Press Release # 018-12
Thursday, June 21, 2012

MEDIA CONTACT: (347) 396-4177
Sam Miller/Alexandra Waldhorn:

Health Department Report Finds that Nearly 60% of Adult New Yorkers at Risk for Oral Health Problems

Findings underscore importance of preventive measures such as drinking fluoridated tap water

June 21, 2012 – More than one in three adult New Yorkers are at risk for tooth decay from consuming one or more sugar-sweetened beverages per day, according to a Health Department Vital Signs report released today. Smoking, heavy alcohol use and diabetes are other causes of common dental problems – including gum disease and tooth loss – in New York City, which combined with sugary drink consumption, place 59% of New Yorkers at risk for oral health problems. More than one third (38%) of third grade children have untreated caries – tooth decay or cavities – and 25% of New Yorkers aged 65 and older have had all their permanent teeth extracted.

“Most oral health problems can be prevented. Eliminating risk factors and adopting protective behaviors such as consuming fewer sugary snacks and beverages and getting enough fluoride are simple steps that promote good oral health,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “Brush twice daily with a toothpaste containing fluoride, floss daily, and drink fluoridated NYC tap water to keep your gums healthy and your teeth cavity-free.”

"Although the oral health of New Yorkers has improved, this report shows that much needs to be done. As most oral diseases are preventable, promotion of preventive measures should be a high priority,” said Director of New York State Department of Health’s Bureau of Dental Health Jay Kumar. “New York City’s program to create a healthy environment by providing fluoridated water to millions is a fine example of a wise investment in prevention."

Good oral health starts before the first teeth erupt and is largely shaped by habits formed at a young age. Parents and caretakers are advised to avoid filling sippy cups and bottles with sugary drinks (especially at night and between meals) and to start preventive dental care at a young age. However, more than half of all toddlers (ages 2 to 3: 57%) in New York City have not had a preventive dental visit in the past year. Two thirds of New York City children age six to 12 have also never received a dental sealant, a thin plastic coating applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth to protect against decay-causing bacteria. Children should visit a dentist when they get their first tooth and no later than their first birthday. The Health Department also recommends that parents discuss dental care, fluoride varnish and a referral to a dentist for sealant application with their child’s health care provider.

Practicing good oral hygiene can have a major impact on your overall health. Studies have found a link between periodontitis (advanced gum disease) and diabetes complications, as well as low birth weight and premature births. Routine dental visits can also help diagnose oral and throat cancers in an early stage, when treatment is most successful. Each year about 800 New Yorkers are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer and 190 die from these conditions – more than 70% of tumors with a known stage of diagnosis were diagnosed late.

Medicaid covers a variety of dental services for children and adults; enrollees should contact their plan to find a provider nearby. Others can locate a participating community dental clinic in their borough by calling 311 or visiting Dental care is also available to children and adults at most HHC hospitals and large health centers year round. Pregnant women are also advised to consult their healthcare provider and to not forego dental visits during pregnancy.

Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can also help improve your oral health. For smoking assistance, call 311, talk to a doctor, or visit For help alcohol dependency problems call 311 or LifeNet (1-800-543-3638).

New Yorkers are advised to brush teeth twice daily with a toothpaste containing fluoride, floss daily and use mouth rinse. For more information search “Oral Health” at