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Discover the surprisingly high rate of dental caries in young children.


Early childhood caries (ECC) is a particularly rapid form of tooth decay affecting the young.1 The aggressive nature of ECC means that cavities can develop rapidly; and, if left untreated, can infect the tooth’s pulpal tissues, potentially leading to hospitalization and the extraction of the infected tooth.1 The concern is that, for many children, caries are not being treated and can subsequently turn into more serious problems.1 Infants who are impacted by caries are at far greater risk of developing immediate and long-term oral health issues than those who are not infected so young.1

Once called “baby bottle tooth decay,” since the key cause was putting a baby to bed with a bottle containing a sugary liquid (thus, prolonging exposure of the baby’s teeth to sugar), ECC is now the most common chronic early childhood disease in the United States1,2 —5 times more common than asthma.1

Strides have been made against dental caries since the 1960s, as caries declined in permanent teeth for many children.3 However, in these same findings, caries in primary teeth for preschool children have increased from 24% to 28% between 1988 and 2004.3

This chart from a recent study demonstrates how prevalent caries continue to be for children 2 to 8 years of age3:

United States, 2011-2012, demonstrates how caries continue to be prevalent in children.

Another chart from the same study shows the large percentage of caries in children from 6 to 11 years of age3:

 United States, 2011-2012, demonstrates the large percentage of caries in children ages 6 to 11.

Beyond treating ECCs, you as a dental healthcare professional play an important role in educating young patients and their parents on the importance of routine dental visits. These preventive measures can help stop early tooth decay from developing into more serious forms of oral infections and reduce the risk of long-term oral health issues.

We hope you found this article of value.

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References:1. The state of little teeth. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Web site. Accessed November 9, 2015.2. MouthHealthy: baby bottle tooth decay. American Dental Association Web site. Accessed December 14, 2015.3. Dye BA, Thornton-Evans G, Li X, et al. Dental caries and sealant prevalence in children and adolescents in the United States, 2011-2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; NCHS Data Brief. March 2015;19:1-8.