Study: Tooth decay is the most common medical condition among children

March 28, 2012
Issue 3

Dental cavities and tooth decay is one of the most common medical conditions experienced by Americans and the single most common disease of childhood. 

Dental cavities and tooth decay is one of the most common medical conditions experienced by Americans and the single most common disease of childhood. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 19 percent of children have untreated cavities and approximately 41 percent of children have decay in their “baby teeth.” This is a health statistic that has not improved since the 1970s and recent studies are indicting a new rise in cavities in children.

Cavities are the result of gradual tooth decay caused by the build-up of plaque and breakdown of protective enamel. Bacteria are normally present in the mouth; however, as they digest sugar and starches they produce acid, which weakens the enamel. Additionally, the bacteria and its acid mixes with food debris and saliva to form a sticky biofilm called plaque. Plaque that is not removed hardens into tarter, which can result in inflammation and gingivitis. The acid within the plaque can continue to dissolve the enamel and eventually cause pits and holes, called cavities.

Initially cavities are painless, but they open the tooth up to infections, eventually exposure the nerve resulting in pain. The internal structures of the tooth can also be destroyed, ultimately causing the loss of the tooth. While this might not seem important in “baby teeth” as they are going to be lost anyway, infection can cause damage to the growing teeth and subsequent treatments can be painful and expensive.

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