To begin to answer this question, Chapter 3 guides the reader through a discussion of oral diseases and disorders in such categories as infections, inherited disorders, and neoplasms. Whether or not an individual succumbs to the disease or disorder in question depends on subtle interactions of genetic, environmental, and behavioral variables. Risk factors common to systemic diseases and disorders, such as tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, and inappropriate dietary practices, also contribute to many oral diseases and disorders. As more details on the causes of diseases unfold, specific strategies for disease prevention can be developed.
Chapter 4 describes the magnitude of the problem facing the nation due to oral diseases and disorders. These conditions are prevalent and complex, and they affect individuals across the life span. Although major improvements have been seen nationally for most Americans, disparities exist in some population groups as classified by age, sex, income, and race/ethnicity. National and state-based epidemiologic data presented against the backdrop of demographic and socioeconomic variables provide some information on racial and ethnic minorities, but serious shortcomings exist. The paucity of data at national, state, and local levels extends to other populations, including individuals with disabilities, those with alternate sexual orientation, migrant populations, and the homeless, and limits the capacity to fully document the magnitude of the problem and develop needed programs. The chapter provides a basis for understanding disparities in oral health by presenting available data on dental visits. More work is needed to understand the dimensions of oral health problems in the United States and the reasons for differences among populations.
Next: Chapter 3