August 28, 2008

Bad Teeth Per Person

Lots to catch up on but this new addition to Gapminder World needs to be passed on:
We have added a new indicator: “bad teeth per person” (you find it under “health” in the Gapminder World).
Here we have plotted “bad teeth per person” against “income per person”.  Is dental problems worst in the richest or the poorest countries?  There actually seem to be a tendency for the dental problems to be larger in the middle income countries, while the population in the richest and poorest countries have somewhat better teeth.
“Bad teeth per person” show how many decayed, missing or filled teeth an average 12 year old has in each country. The technical term of the indicator is DFMT for 12-years old and the data is taken from the WHO. We have unfortunatly only data for one year. Note that the data in many cases are actually based on estimates for earlier years.  
Why is Saudi Arabia so high I wonder?  Their BTPP is almost twice as high as the next highest Middle-Eastern nation.  They have a high number of medical doctors and at least average health expenditure per capita.  Is there something culturally that would account for an aversion to dentistry or maybe something in (or not in) the diet that would lend itself to bad teeth?


Pomeroy Kinsey said...

Wow, what an interesting data point. You can intuitively sense why such a measure would be important, since probably healthy teeth are correlated with educational infrastructure, quality of water and sanitation, and economic opportunity. But, it's surprising that the correlation doesn't have the negative slope (at least to the naked eye) that I was expecting. I was expecting to see that as countries' got richer, they'd get better teeth, but I don't see that in this data.

The caveats on the website, though, suggest some issues to keep in mind. First, the data is not all coming from 2004. Some countries are reporting from a few years before. That is probably not a big deal, though. I can imagine that the stock of bad teeth in a country doesn't change much over a few years, as much as it does over a long period of time, as you figure a lot of bad teeth issues can be addressed in childhood, but can only be remedied in adulthood at much higher cost. The issue that is most frustrating is that it's just for 2004. Ideally we'd have more observations from which we could see changes in income over time and changes in teeth over time.

Almost certainly, bad teeth is going to be correlated with many other variables that are also correlated with income, so that's most likely why you don't see anything in the cross-section. It'd be interesting to see if flouride requirements in the water, though, has any relationship to bad teeth.

Anonymous said...
Rather than sugar,
it could be that bad teeth are linked to what your grandmother ate during her pregnancy. See the link above discussing the obesity issue and famine in Holland. I was taught that we need to look at 4 generations of a family to get a better idea of what is happening.

Doris Pender said...

The initial findings are interesting, although you can’t come to a conclusion considering the data set is too small to support something conclusive. It’s a good start to figuring out the costs of bad teeth though.

Dr.Willmar Schwabe said...

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