Periodontal Disease in Seniors (Age 65 and Over)

Overall, the prevalence of periodontal (gum) disease in seniors has decreased from the early 1970s until the latest (1999-2004) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. In spite of this improvement, significant disparities remain in some population groups.

Tables 1 and 2 present information about periodontal disease for seniors age 65 and over years and for selected population groups.

The research definitions of periodontal disease are not necessarily the same as the common definition of gum disease, which may include both gingivitis (inflammation of the gums without any loss of bone and tissue) and periodontitis (as defined below):

For the purposes of epidemiological research, periodontal disease is defined very specifically. For a person to have periodontal disease, he or she must have at least one periodontal site with 3 millimeters or more of attachment loss and 4 millimeters or more of pocket depth. Moderate periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal attachment loss of 4 millimeters or more OR at least two teeth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites. Severe periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal attachment loss of 6 millimeters or more AND at least one tooth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites.

Prevalence of Periodontal Disease (Table 1)

  • 17.20% of seniors age 65 and over have periodontal disease.
  • Older seniors, Black and Hispanic seniors, current smokers, and those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to have periodontal disease.

Prevalence of Severe Periodontal disease (Table 2)

  • 10.58% of seniors 65 and over have moderate or severe periodontal disease.
  • Older seniors, Black and Hispanic seniors, current smokers, and those with lower incomes and less education are more likely to have moderate/severe periodontal disease.

Table 1: Seniors, Prevalence of Periodontal Disease

Prevalence of periodontal disease among seniors with teeth, age 65 and over years of age, by selected characteristics:
United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2004

Characteristic

Percent with periodontal disease*

Age

 

65 to 74 years

10.20

75 years and over

11.03

   

Sex

 

Male

12.97

Female

8.56

   

Race and Ethnicity

 

White, non-Hispanic

8.99

Black, non-Hispanic

23.92

Mexican American

17.23

   

Poverty Status (Income compared to Federal Poverty Level)

 

Less than 100%

17.49

100% to 199%

11.59

Greater than 200%

8.62

   

Education

 

Less than High School

16.56

High School

8.30

More than High School

8.90

   

Smoking History

 

Current Smoker

13.80

Former Smoker

9.20

Never Smoked

11.12

   

Overall

10.58

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 4 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding periodontal disease in seniors.

* Periodontal disease is defined as having at least one periodontal site with 3 millimeters or more of attachment loss and 4 millimeters or more of pocket depth.

Table 2: Seniors, Prevalence of Moderate or Severe Periodontal Disease

Severity of periodontal disease among seniors with teeth, age 65 and over years of age, by selected characteristics:
United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2004


Characteristic

Percentage with moderate or severe periodontal disease*

Age

 

65 to 74 years

14.26

75 years and over

20.75

   

Sex

 

Male

20.61

Female

14.40

   

Race and Ethnicity

 

White, non-Hispanic

15.47

Black, non-Hispanic

24.47

Mexican American

24.20

   

Poverty Status (Income compared to Federal Poverty Level)

 

Less than 100%

31.96

100% to 199%

18.75

Greater than 200%

13.91

   

Education

 

Less than High School

28.24

High School

15.51

More than High School

12.38

   

Smoking History

 

Current Smoker

32.01

Former Smoker

19.25

Never Smoked

14.08

   

Overall

17.20

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 4 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding periodontal disease in seniors.

* Using the CDC-AAP definition of moderate and severe periodontitis: Moderate periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal attachment loss of 4 millimeters or more OR at least two teeth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites. Severe periodontal disease is defined as having at least two teeth with interproximal attachment loss of 6 millimeters or more AND at least one tooth with 5 millimeters or more of pocket depth at interproximal sites.

Last Reviewed
February 2018