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Children’s Oral Health

August 22, 2023
3 minutes

Cavities (also known as caries or tooth decay) are the most common chronic disease 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.

  • More than half of children aged 6 to 8 have had a cavity in at least one of their baby (primary) teeth.
  • More than half of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in at least one of their permanent teeth.
  • 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 Parents and Caregivers can do

For Babies:

  • Wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed to wipe away bacteria and sugars that can cause cavities.
  • When teeth come in, start brushing twice a day with a soft, small?bristled toothbrush and plain water.
  • Visit the dentist by your baby’s first birthday to spot signs of problems early.
  • Talk to your dentist or doctor about putting fluoride varnish on your child’s teeth as soon as the first tooth appears. For children younger than 2, consult first with your doctor or dentist regarding the use of fluoride toothpaste.

For Children:

  • Brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Help your child brush their teeth until they have good brushing skills. If your child is younger than 6, watch them brush. Make sure they use a pea-sized amount of toothpaste and always spit it out rather than swallow.
  • Ask your child’s dentist to apply dental sealants when appropriate.
  • Drink tap water that contains fluoride.

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.

 

Source: CDC

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