By Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), which is conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was recently published. The survey, authorized by the National Health Survey Act of 1956, has been conducted since the 1960s.1 Americans of all ages are interviewed in their homes regarding health, disease, nutrition, risk factors for disease, and health care utilization.1 The self-reported information is followed by a clinical examination, which is completed in a mobile unit.1
The NHANES population includes all demographics in the United States, except military members or institutionalized populations.1 The NHANES is designed to help health providers and administrators assess disease, risk factors, and health care and dental care utilization.1 Additionally, demographics are stratified for assessments in relation to race, ethnicity, age, and income level.1 This data helps paint a picture of Americans’ health status, nutritional habits, trends in disease, and risk factors for disease.
This can be an effective tool for dental hygienists interested in providing assessments as part of an overall initiative to improve the community’s oral health.
Fortunately, oral health is integrated into the NHANES, allowing us to assess issues negatively affecting our society and work at solutions to prevent disease and improve health.
Specifically, the oral health component addresses the following topics:
Most recent dental care or lack thereof;
Direct conversation with a dental professional about dental health;
Dental health perception;
Oral cancer exam;
Use of dental floss or mouth rinse; and
Periodontal disease (self-reporting).2
Additionally, dental examiners complete an oral evaluation, covering tooth count, decay, and fluorosis. The manual for this oral evaluation can be found on the CDC’s website.i The manual explains the examination, equipment, quality management, and referral protocols.
The NHANES reports can be used to gather data on the US population’s oral and overall health and disease. This can be an effective tool for dental hygienists interested in providing assessments as part of an overall initiative to improve the community’s oral health.
Author’s Note: To view the oral evaluation manual, visit bit.ly/2gJRrIA.
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 fourth edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.
1. About the National Health Interview Survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nhis/about_nhis.htm. Updated July 11, 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017.
2. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey: 2015-2016 Data Documentation, Codebook, and Frequencies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. https://wwwn.cdc.gov/Nchs/Nhanes/2015-2016/INQ_I.htm. Published September 2017. Accessed October 27, 2017.