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Health Agencies Update
June 21, 2000

Oral Disease a Silent Epidemic

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JAMA. 2000;283(23):3060. doi:10.1001/jama.283.23.3060

Despite dramatic improvements in oral health for many Americans over the past half-century, a "silent epidemic" of untreated oral diseases, from dental caries to oral cancers, is burdening the poor and minorities, asserts the first-ever Surgeon General's report on the topic.

"This report illustrates the profound disparities that affect those without the knowledge or resources to achieve good oral care," said Surgeon General David Satcher, who presented the report's findings at a press conference last month. Economically disadvantaged groups are less likely to have dental insurance or the ability to pay out-of-pocket dental expenses, and they also have other barriers to dental care, such as a lack of transportation or the ability to take personal time off from work, the report notes.

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