Social stratification and tooth loss among middle-aged and older Americans from 1988 to 2004

Bei Wu, Celia Hybels, Jersey Liang, Lawrence Landerman, Brenda Plassman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Tooth retention has improved over the past few decades, but it is not known whether these trends have been observed across all demographic/socioeconomic subgroups. We examined number of missing teeth among dentate individuals (n = 9, 113) as well as edentulism and systematically modeled their trends over time by using clinical examination data. Methods: We investigated the association between social stratification and trends in tooth retention among adults ages 50+ from 1988 to 2004, using four waves of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) (n = 11 812). Results: The prevalence of edentulism declined from 24.6% in NHANES III (1988-1994) to 17.4% in 2003-2004, and the mean number of missing teeth declined from 8.19 to 6.50. Older participants, Blacks, the less educated and those with lower income were higher on both edentulism and number missing teeth. Both edentulism and number of missing teeth declined over time, but their patterns varied. For edentulism, age and socioeconomic related disparities decreased over time due to more decline among older and low-income participants. For missing teeth, there was less decrement among older and low-income participants, resulting in increased age and socioeconomic related disparities. Conclusions: Our study found disparities in trends of tooth loss across demographic/socioeconomic strata. Findings suggest that racial/ethnic disparities are partially explained by socioeconomic status. Interventions designed to improve oral health for older adults, particularly those with low levels of income, need special attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)495-502
Number of pages8
JournalCommunity Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Edentulism
  • Middle-aged
  • Older adults
  • Tooth loss
  • Trends

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Dentistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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