Overview and Inventory of HHS Efforts to Assist Incarcerated and Reentering Individuals and their Families . Oral Health


Dental health needs are commonly reported by inmates but information on severity and care is limited. One study finds that over one-third of inmates reported problems with their gums and teeth and less than a quarter of men and two-fifths of women had seen a dentist in the last year. An Iowa study found that the state’s incarcerated population had more than eight times the amount of untreated tooth decay, when compared with a sample of all U.S. adults (Boyer et al., 2002). Corrections-based dentists in Minnesota reported encountering a condition known as "meth mouth,” which is associated with inmates’ methamphetamine usage in the community. It is characterized by lost, broken and cracked teeth and gum disease. Methamphetamine is one of the factors that has increased Minnesota’s correctional dental health care costs from $1.19 million in 2000 to $2.01 million in 2004 (Brunswick, 2005).

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