Adult Oral Health

Almost all adults have problems with their teeth or gums at some point in their lives. The major threats to adult oral health are gum disease and tooth decay (cavities). In the US, about 9 in 10 adults have had tooth decay and about 1 in 4 adults have untreated tooth decay. Nearly half of adults have gum disease.


Tips for Good Oral Health

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Use toothpaste that contains fluoride and a soft bristled toothbrush.
  • Floss daily: The spaces between your teeth or under your gums can’t be reached with a toothbrush.
  • Tooth care: Prevent cavities. Older adults over 65 are often at increased risk of cavities as a result of diet, medications and medical and dental conditions. (PDF)
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  • Denture care: Take care of your dentures. Maintaining dentures allows them to last longer and helps you eat more comfortably. (PDF)
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  • Eat healthy. Limit the number of snacks throughout the day, and avoid sugary and starchy snacks.
  • Drink tap water. The fluoride in New York City’s tap water helps prevent tooth decay.
  • Avoid tobacco. Tobacco significantly increases the risk for gum disease and mouth and throat cancer. Talk to a doctor, call 311 or visit for help.
  • Limit alcohol. Heavy alcohol use increases the risk for mouth and throat cancer, especially when used in combination with tobacco. Call 311 or NYC Well at (888) NYC-Well (888-692-9355) for help.
  • Visit the dentist. Regular dental visits help to prevent oral diseases and diagnose problems early, when they are more easily treatable.
  • Ask about fluoride treatment. Speak to your dentist or doctor about fluoride varnish, a coating that is painted on the teeth to prevent tooth decay.

Frequently Asked Questions about Fluoride Varnish
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Major risk factors and their potential outcomes for adult oral health problems:

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