Fewer U.S. kids are getting cavities

April 13, 2018 by Amy Norton, Healthday Reporter

(HealthDay)—Fewer U.S. kids are plagued by tooth cavities compared to just a few years ago, but income disparities persist, according to a new U.S. government study.

Researchers found that in 2015-2016, about 43 percent of children ages 2 to 19 had cavities. That was down from 50 percent four years earlier.

This is the good news. On the other hand, disparities were apparent: Hispanic kids had the highest prevalence of cavities, at 52 percent. And children from had a substantially higher rate of cavities than those from wealthier families.

In addition, many kids—13 percent—had cavities that had gone untreated, and black children were at greatest risk.

"We're making progress, but there's still work to be done," said lead researcher Dr. Eleanor Fleming, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics.

Dr. Rosie Roldan, who directs pediatric dentistry at Nicklaus Children's Hospital in Miami, agreed.

"It's encouraging to see this decline happening," said Roldan, who was not involved in the study.

She noted that the youngest children in the study—those ages 2 to 5—had the lowest rates of cavities and .

That, according to Roldan, might be related to a push in recent years to get young children to the dentist.

Groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dental Association suggest children start when their baby teeth emerge, or by 12 months of age.

On the other hand, Roldan said, "cavities are still very common."

Lower-income families, she noted, may have a hard time getting kids to the dentist, not only because of money or insurance issues, but because they may not live close to a provider.

"Plus, healthy food is expensive," Roldan said. "Even toothpaste can be expensive for some families."

The findings, released April 13 by the CDC, come from an ongoing study of Americans' health and nutrition habits conducted through home interviews and physical exams at mobile health clinics.

In the most recent study years—2015-2016—just over 43 percent of U.S. kids age 2 and up had cavities. That included 13 percent with untreated cavities. By comparison, those figures were 50 percent and 16 percent, respectively, in 2011-2012.

The picture looked worse as income declined. Among families living below the federal poverty line, 52 percent of kids had cavities. That compared with 34 percent of kids from families with incomes greater than 300 percent of the poverty level.

Similarly, almost 19 percent of kids from low-income families had untreated cavities, versus 7 percent of those from higher-income families.

Racial disparities were evident, too: About 17 percent of had untreated cavities, compared with just under 12 percent of white kids and 10.5 percent of Asian kids.

Why has the overall prevalence of cavities gone down? It's not possible to tell from the study, Fleming said.

The keys to prevention, she noted, include a few basics: brushing with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing every day; limiting sugary drinks, and regular visits to the dentist.

It's not clear whether any changes in those habits, or access to dental care, might explain the recent decline in kids' cavities, according to Fleming.

"Cavities are the most common disease among ," she said. "But not everyone gets them. They are not inevitable."

Taking your kids to the dentist twice a year will help, Roldan said. But, she added, "what happens in between is even more important."

Choose water instead of sugary drinks, she advised, and make sure your kids brush regularly, especially before bed.

"Overnight is when those bacteria [in the mouth] will be having a party," Roldan noted.

Explore further: CDC urges dental sealants for all low-income children

More information: Eleanor Fleming, Ph.D., D.D.S., dental officer, National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Hyattsville, Md.; Rosie Roldan, D.M.D., M.D., director, pediatric dentistry, Nicklaus Children's Hospital, Miami; April 13, 2018, National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief, online

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more on kids' oral health.

Related Stories

CDC urges dental sealants for all low-income children

October 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Treatments that seal a child's back teeth can prevent most cavities, but many children—particularly those living in poverty—don't get them, according to research published in the Oct. 18 early-release issue ...

1 in 5 americans has untreated cavities: CDC

May 31, 2012
(HealthDay) -- More than one in every five Americans has untreated cavities, a new government report shows.

Inequalities in dental health are most evident in young children

April 11, 2018
Inequalities in dental health are most evident in 3 to 6-year-old children, according to a thesis at Sahlgrenska Academy. Preschoolers in socioeconomically disadvantaged families had a more than four times higher risk of ...

How to avoid passing down cavities to your kids

February 7, 2018
Along with genetic traits, parents can also pass on cavities to their babies, says a University of Alberta pediatric dentist.

Dentists' group expands recommended use of fluoride toothpaste for kids

February 11, 2014
(HealthDay)—Children should begin using toothpaste with fluoride as soon as they get their first tooth, according to updated American Dental Association (ADA) guidelines.

Few children receive dental care before recommended age of one year

May 5, 2014
Less than one per cent of healthy urban children surveyed in Toronto had received dental care by the recommended age of 12 months and less than two per cent had seen a dentist by the age of 24 months. Children most susceptible ...

Recommended for you

Digital media use linked to behavioral problems in kids

July 17, 2018
Are children who spend lots of time using digital devices prone to psychiatric problems? A team of USC scientists says yes in a new study that appears today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Childhood abuse linked to greater risk of endometriosis, study finds

July 17, 2018
Endometriosis, a painful condition that affects one in 10 reproductive-age women in the U.S., has been linked to childhood physical and sexual abuse, according to findings published today in the journal Human Reproduction.

Opioids given too easily to children: study

July 16, 2018
(HealthDay)—Many children are prescribed powerful opioid painkillers they don't really need, putting them and those around them at risk, a new study shows.

Self-control and obesity: Gender matters in children

July 16, 2018
A toddler's self-regulation—the ability to change behavior in different social situations—may predict whether he or she will be obese come kindergarten, but the connection appears to be much different for girls than for ...

Footwear habits influence child and adolescent motor skill development

July 11, 2018
New research finds that children and adolescents who spend most of their time barefoot develop motor skills differently from those who habitually wear shoes. Published in Frontiers in Pediatrics, this is the first study to ...

Parents who had severe trauma, stresses in childhood more likely to have kids with behavioral health problems

July 9, 2018
A new study finds that severe childhood trauma and stresses early in parents' lives are linked to higher rates of behavioral health problems in their own children.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.