Environmental Public Health Tracking: Oral Health

This page is for data users of the Wisconsin Environmental Public Health Tracking data portal

You can find general oral health information on the Oral Health Program's page.

Oral health includes the teeth, gums, tongue, and all parts of the mouth. 

Public health professionals track oral health data in order to educate their communities and plan prevention efforts.

The section below presents answers to frequently asked questions about oral health and the data.

Access the oral health data

 

 

 

Child brushing teeth

Interested in environmental health data?

Join the environmental health listserv by sending an email to DHS Environmental Public Health Tracking with the subject line "Join envhealth listserv."

 

What is oral health?

Oral health is an important part of our overall health and is much more than just healthy teeth.  Oral refers to the whole mouth: the teeth, gums, hard and soft palate, lining of the mouth and throat, tongue, lips, salivary glands, chewing muscles, and upper and lower jaws.  

Not only does good oral health mean being free of tooth decay and gum disease, but it means being free of oral pain, oral cancer, birth defects such as cleft lip and palate, and other conditions that affect the mouth and throat.  Good oral health also includes the ability to carry on the most basic human functions such as chewing, swallowing, speaking, smiling, kissing, and singing. Learn more about oral health from the Oral Health Program.

How is oral health related to environmental health?

  • Water quality is a critical component of environmental health and communities add fluoride to their public water supply to improve dental health.  Drinking fluoridated water reduces tooth decay by about 25%.¹
  • Excessive sun exposure is linked to lip cancer.²
  • Smoking is strongly linked to oral cancer, and some research suggests there may be a link between secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) and oral cancers).³ One aim of the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network is to host data that researchers can use to better understand these potential environmental links to health risks and disease.

¹Community Water Fluoridation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

²Questions and Answers on Skin Cancer Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

³Smoking and Cancer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; What Are the Risk Factors for Laryngeal and Hypopharyngeal Cancers?, American Cancer Society

How can tracking oral health improve public health?

Tracking oral health measures gives public health professionals a better understanding of how often oral diseases happen in their county. With Environmental Public Health Tracking, we can monitor how many cases of particular oral diseases occur in a county over time and can use that information to educate our communities and plan prevention efforts.

What is the data source?

The source of the data is the Wisconsin Oral Health Program.  The Oral Health Program aggregates the data and sends this information to Wisconsin Environmental Public Health Tracking Program. 

Which measures does Wisconsin Tracking provide for oral health?

  • Emergency department visits for non-traumatic dental care
  • Measures from the Wisconsin survey of third graders, Healthy Smiles, Healthy Growth (PDF)
  • Percentage of population with access to fluoridated public water

We will add more measures as the data become available.  Sign up for our quarterly newsletter if you would like an update when new data are added to the portal.

What are some considerations for interpreting the data?

Data on fluoride in drinking water are based on samples taken from active public community water systems.  The data represent the population on public drinking water that have access to fluoridated water, regardless of whether it is at the recommended level.  In other words, a person might have access to some level of fluoridation, but it may not be at levels recommended for optimal health benefits.

Where can I learn more about oral health?

Last Revised: September 8, 2021