Tooth decay (cavities) is one of the most common chronic conditions of childhood in the United States. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
- 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.
The good news is that tooth decay is preventable. Fluoride varnish, a high concentration fluoride coating that is painted on teeth, can prevent about one-third (33%) of decay in the primary (baby) teeth. Children living in communities with fluoridated tap water have fewer decayed teeth than children who live in areas where their tap water is not fluoridated. Similarly, children who brush daily with fluoride toothpaste will have less tooth decay. Applying dental sealants to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth is another way to prevent tooth decay. Studies in children show that sealants reduce decay in the permanent molars by 81% for 2 years after they are placed on the tooth and continue to be effective for 4 years after placement.