MA Oral Health Data

Despite the fact that Massachusetts has made great strides in oral health, there is still much to do. Flouride_MAFactsDental disease is common, costly, and preventable.

  • Dental decay is the most common childhood disease, four times more common than asthma i.
  • Over half of MA children ages 6-8 have cavitiesii while more than one-quarter of them ages 2-4 have cavities. ii
  • 15% of kids ages 2-4 have untreated tooth decay. ii
  • 37% of Head Start kids had decay in 2005 while the national average was only 5%. iii

…and there are huge socioeconomic health disparities…

  • 30% of adults with annual incomes less than $25,000 are missing 6 or more teeth. ii
  • Adults with less education suffer greater oral health disparities.  Less than 20% of adults (ages 25-44) with at least a college degree suffered some tooth loss. While almost 50% of adults with only a high school diploma experienced tooth loss.iii
  • Black and Hispanic adults experience far greater tooth loss than White adults.vii
  • Black children in MA have a higher percentage of cavities than those nationally.iii

The high cost of dental care impacts everyone….

  • There are more than 2 million visits every year to hospital emergency rooms for tooth pain and visits to the ER for tooth pain are costly, ranging from $400 to $1,500.iv These costs are paid for by taxpayers.

Community Water Fluoridation

  • Community water fluoridation, a safe, effective, and cost efficient preventive strategy, prevents tooth decay and is one of very few public health prevention measures that offer significant cost savings to almost all communities.v
  • It reaches everyone in the community regardless of their ability to access dental care.
  • In 2009, 42% of communities in Massachusetts that could be fluoridated were not.iii
  • Only 59% of MA residents benefit from water fluoridation making MA 36th in the nation.iii
  • In 1951, the first three Massachusetts communities to fluoridate their water were Danvers, Templeton and

School-based dental care 

  • Dental sealants are known to significantly reduce dental decay. The combination of fluoride and sealants can make these children cavity free.
  • In 2006, the most recent year for which there is data, only 8% of schools in MA had a school-based dental health program such as sealants or fluoride rinse.iii
  • In 2007, children who were poor, without a dentist, and an ethnic minority were less likely to receive dental sealants.ii



      i.         Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Dental Association (2006). Water fluoridation: Nature’s way to prevent tooth decay. Retrieved from
    ii.         Catalyst Institute (2008). The oral health of Massachusetts’ children. Retrieved from
  iii.         Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Office of Oral Health (2009). The status of oral disease in Massachusetts. Retrieved from
   iv.         American Dental Association (2013). ER utilization issues. Retrieved from
     v.         Griffin, S.O., Jones, K., Tomar, S.L. (2001). An economic evaluation of community water fluoridation. Journal of Public Health Dentistry, 61, 78-86.
   vi.         Massachusetts Department of Public Health (2014). Community water fluoridation. Retrieved from
 vii.         National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (2014). Oral health in America: A report of the Surgeon General. Retrieved from