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Dental Caries in Children and Adults

Dental Caries in Children and Adults

Since the 1960s, the United States has been assessing the oral health of Americans. Although oral health overall has improved since that time with advances in dentistry and wider adoption of good oral hygiene habits, significant discrepancies still exist among racial and ethnic groups.

The first National Assessment of Oral Health ever conducted found that approximately three-quarters of children had caries (cavities) in their permanent teeth by age 11. Today, only about one-quarter of children have cavities in their permanent teeth by age 11. However, the incidence of cavities and tooth decay is higher in lower socio-economic groups.

Results from the most recent national oral health assessment reveal the following statistics.

• Approximately 23 percent of children 2-5 years old have cavities in their primary teeth.
• Hispanic and non-Hispanic black children aged 2-8 are twice as likely as their non-Hispanic white counterparts to have untreated tooth decay in primary teeth
• For children aged 6-11, 27 percent of Hispanic children have cavities in permanent teeth compared to 18 percent of white or Asian children.
• For children aged 6-11, 44 percent of non-Hispanic white children had dental sealants, compared with 31 percent of Asian and non-Hispanic black children.
• Among adolescents aged 12-19, nearly 60% have had cavities in permanent teeth and 15 percent have untreated tooth decay.

The prevalence of tooth decay in children is of concern since serious tooth problems can interfere with eating, sleeping and concentration. In addition, tooth decay in childhood has implications for these individuals later in adulthood. Adults who had significant tooth decay as children are more susceptible to oral health problems, are more likely to require later restorative treatments such as crowns and root canal therapy, and are at higher risk of tooth loss.

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