Tooth decay and toddlers

Tooth Decay Is Up in Young Children

Decay in children’s baby teeth is on the rise. The number of 2- to 5-year-olds with such decay increased from 24 to 28 percent from 1988 to 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). On the plus side, decay in permanent teeth fell in the same years. For children ages 6 to 11, it dropped from 25 to 21 percent. Among teens ages 12 to 19, it decreased from 68 to 59 percent.

About 30 percent of children ages 6 to 11 and 30 percent of teens ages 12 to 19 have had dental sealants. This plastic coating protects pits and fissures on biting surfaces of teeth against decay. Preventive measures such as dental sealants have been widely available for years. The CDC’s Division of Oral Health reports that their efforts need to focus on reaching children living in poverty, who would benefit most from sealants.


“Oral Health Improving for Most Americans, But Tooth Decay Among Preschool Children on the Rise.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 30, 2007. Accessed 2013.

“Trends in Oral Health Status: United States, 1988–1994 and 1999–2004.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2007, Vital Health Statistics series 11, no. 248, pages 1-92. Accessed 2013.

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