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Children's Oral Health

Cavities (also known as caries or tooth decay) are one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood in the United States. Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. Children who have poor oral health often miss more school and receive lower grades than children who don’t.

  • About 1 of 5 (20%) children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • 1 of 7 (13%) adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely (25%) to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households (11%).

The good news is that cavities are preventable. Fluoride varnish can prevent about one-third (33%) of cavities in the primary (baby) teeth. Children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer cavities than children whose water is not fluoridated. Similarly, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have fewer cavities.

Dental sealants can also prevent cavities for many years. Applying dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth prevent 80% of cavities.

What Are the Risk Factors for Cavities?

Your child’s chance of getting cavities can be higher if:

  • Family members (older brothers, sisters, or parents) have cavities.
  • They eat and drink a lot of sugary foods and drinks, like soda, especially between meals.
  • They have special health care needs.
  • They wear braces or orthodontics or oral appliances.

If any of these apply to your child, be sure to talk with your dentist, pediatrician, or family doctor to make sure you are taking extra steps to protect your child’s teeth

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