secondary data on the oral health status of adults aged 35 - 44 were analysed in order to estimate the prevalence of caries and early tooth loss. a non-probabilistic sample of 5,777 teachers and workers of public and private schools randomly selected in 131 cities of the state of sao paulo were gathered for the oral examination. the assessment of caries followed the international methodological standard criteria recomended by the world health organization (1997). the dmft index, corresponding to the number of decayed, missing and filled teeth, and the proportion of subjects with at least 20 remaining teeth were analyzed and classified by age, sex and ethnic groups, access to fluoridated water supply, urban or rural school, and city population. the 1991 census - the most recent source of general information of the population then available - supplied information on socioeconomic status at the municipal level. spatial data analysis was used in order to appraise the association between oral health status and socioeconomic indicators. the dmft of adults scored 22,39 (6,24), half of this value associated with missing teeth. increased rates of early tooth loss were observed for older subjects, for those working in rural settings, for blacks, for towns with reduced population size, and those with no fluoridated water supply. municipal socioeconomic indicators correlated with the proportion of subjects with at least 20 remaining teeth. these results may help policy makers to formulate public polices on oral health promotion.