BY CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS
A lot of information is published on the epidemiology of disease in the United States. One of the major data sources available is NHANES, which stands for National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. NHANES is a program of studies designed to assess the health and nutritional status of adults and children in the U.S. The surveys combine interviews and physical examinations. NHANES is operated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) within the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).1 NHANES began in the early 1960s, and it disseminates information on:
- Major disease prevalence
- Risk factors for disease
- Demographic information as related to disease
- Medical, dental, and physiological measurements
- Nutritional habits
- National standards for height, weight, and blood pressure1
This information is vital when conducting needs assessments within a community. Just as in clinical practice, it is necessary to provide a comprehensive examination (assessment) prior to treatment, which is mandatory to adequately assess the target population for community service initiatives before planning a program.
Other articles by Nathe
- Standing up for community fluoridation
- Elementary Care: Oral health supporters collaborate to develop school clinic
- RDHAPs in public health
Most recently, NHANES published a survey updating the prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the U.S. from data gathered in NHANES 2009 through 2012. This report described periodontitis in the adult population using combined data from the 2009-2010 and 2011-2012 cycles of NHANES.2 Findings concluded:
1. 46% of U.S. adults have periodontitis
2. Periodontitis prevalence is positively associated with increasing age and is higher among males
3. Prevalence is experienced twice as much between the lowest and highest levels of socioeconomic status, whether defined by poverty or education
4. Periodontitis prevalence is highest in
- Hispanics (63.5%)
- Non-Hispanic blacks (59.1%)
- Non-Hispanic Asian Americans (50.0%)
- Non-Hispanic whites (40.8%)2
These findings are particularly interesting when combined with the latest study NHANES conducted on children. The study was titled "Dental Caries and Sealant Prevalence in Children and Adolescents in the United States, 2011-2012."
- Approximately 23% of children ages 2 to 5 have dental caries in primary teeth.
- Untreated tooth decay in primary teeth among children ages 2 to 8 is twice as high for Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children compared with non-Hispanic white children.
- Among those ages 6 to 11, 27% of Hispanic children have some dental caries in permanent teeth compared with nearly 18% of non-Hispanic white and Asian children.
- About three in five adolescents ages 12 to 19 have experienced dental caries in permanent teeth, and 15% have untreated tooth decay.
- Dental sealants are more prevalent for non-Hispanic white children (44%) compared with non-Hispanic black and Asian children (31% each) ages 6 to 11.3
Data from these NHANES reports can be very helpful to dental hygienists who are planning community service initiatives, and the data should be used along with local data to develop a comprehensive community assessment. Dental hygienists should be encouraged to use all the resources available when planning programs, including the NHANES reports. RDH
1. About NHANES. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhanes/about_nhanes.htm on March 28, 2015.
2. Eke PI, Dye BA, Wei L, et al. Update on prevalence of periodontitis in adults in the United States: NHANES 2009-2012. J Periodontol. 2015 Feb 17:1-18. [ePub ahead of print] Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25688694 on March 28, 2015.
3. Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Li X, et al. Dental caries and sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in the United States, 2011-2012. NCHS Data Brief. Number 191, March 2015. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db191.htm on March 28, 2015.
CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS, is director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of "Dental Public Health Research" (www.pearsonhighered.com/educator), which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.