How Common Is Tooth Decay Among Children?

The most common infectious disease among American children is tooth decay, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Tooth decay is more commonly known as dental cavities. Children as young as two are developing cavities, according to a recent article published in The New York Times. Over 50 percent of American children will have some type of tooth decay before they are five years old, notes The Los Angeles Times.

Some dentists report seeing toddlers with as many as 10 cavities in their teeth; children of such a young age are very unlikely to sit still for treatment and often require general anesthesia to have the cavities filled. The use of general anesthesia for any medical procedure always carries a small risk of death, a risk which increases in very young children or elderly people.

Parents can help their children prevent cavities by using toothpaste with fluoride in it. Children under the age of seven should only use an amount about as large as a penny each time they brush their teeth. Also, parents should give their kids tap water instead of bottled water unless a doctor advises otherwise. Constant snacking, especially on sugared drinks and candies, is a major factor not just in tooth decay but other health problems such as obesity. The prevalence of tooth decay increases among households that rely on food stamps, as sugary foods and drinks are often cheaper than healthier choices.
But even parents with high incomes and post-graduate degrees often do not know that their children should have their first visits to a dentist before they are a year old. If parents cannot afford a dental visit, most communities offer free clinics especially for the sake of young children’s oral health.