Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children Age 2 to 11

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Units of Measure

Dental caries is measured by a dentist examining a child’s teeth, and recording the ones with untreated decay and the ones with fillings. This provides three important numbers:

  • ft (filled teeth): this is the number of decayed teeth that have been treated, which indicates access to dental care;
  • dt (decayed teeth): this is the number decayed teeth that have not been treated, which measures unmet need; and
  • dft (decayed and filled teeth): this is the sum of ft and dt, and is the measure of person’s total lifetime tooth decay.

In addition to counting decayed and filled teeth, this same information can be gathered at the tooth surface level. Since every tooth has multiple surfaces, counting the decayed or filled surfaces provides a more accurate measure of the severity of decay. The following tables list both methods of measuring caries.

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Dental Caries in Primary (Baby) Teeth

Overall dental caries in the baby teeth of children 2 to 11 declined from the early 1970s until the mid 1990s. From the mid 1990s until the most recent (1999-2004) National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, this trend has reversed: a small but significant increase in primary decay was found. This trend reversal was more severe in younger children. Tables 1 through 4 present selected caries estimates in primary teeth for children aged 2–11 years and for selected subgroups.

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Dental Caries in Primary Baby Teeth (Prevalence)

  • 42% of children 2 to 11 have had dental caries in their primary teeth.
  • Black and Hispanic children and those living in families with lower incomes have more decay.

Table 1: Percent of Children with Caries in Primary Teeth

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding dental caries in children.

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Dental Caries in Primary Baby Teeth (Unmet Needs)

  • 23% of children 2 to 11 have untreated dental caries.
  • Black and Hispanic children and those living in families with lower incomes have more untreated decay.

Table 2: Percent of Children with Untreated Decay in Primary Teeth

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding dental caries in children.

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Dental Caries in Primary Baby Teeth (Severity)

  • Children 2 to 11 have an average of 1.6 decayed primary teeth and 3.6 decayed primary surfaces.
  • Black and Hispanic subgroups and those with lower incomes have more severe decay in primary teeth.
  • Black and Hispanic subgroups and those with lower incomes have more untreated primary teeth.

Table 3: Primary Teeth, Severity of Decay Measured by Number of Teeth Affected

 

Data Source: Mean number of decayed, filled, and decayed or filled primary teeth among youths 2–11 years of age, by selected characteristics: United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2004

Table 4: Primary Teeth, Severity of Decay Measured by Number of Tooth Surfaces Affected

 

Data Source: Mean number of decayed, filled, and decayed or filled primary teeth among youths 2–11 years of age, by selected characteristics: United States, National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 1999–2004

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Dental Caries in Permanent (Adult) Teeth

Dental caries in children’s permanent teeth declined from the early 1970s until the mid 1990s. Significant disparities are found in some population groups. Tables 5 through 8 present selected caries estimates in permanent teeth for children aged 2–11 years and for selected subgroups.

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Dental Caries in Permanent Adult Teeth (Prevalence)

  • 21% of children 6 to 11 have had dental caries in their permanent teeth.
  • Hispanic children and those living in families with lower incomes have more decay in their permanent teeth.

Table 5: Percent of Children with Decay in Permanent Teeth

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding tooth decay (dental caries) in children.

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Dental Caries in Permanent Adult Teeth (Unmet Needs)

  • 8% of children 6 to 11 have untreated decay.
  • Hispanic children and those living in families with lower incomes have more untreated decay.

Table 6: Percent of Children with Untreated Decay in Permanent Teeth

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding dental caries in children.

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Dental Caries in Permanent Adult Teeth (Severity)

  • Children 6 to 11 have about 0.45 decayed permanent teeth and 0.68 decayed permanent surfaces.
  • Black and Hispanic subgroups and those with lower incomes have more severe decay in both permanent teeth and surfaces.
  • Black and Hispanic subgroups and those with lower incomes have more untreated permanent teeth and surfaces.

Table 7: Permanent Teeth, Severity of Tooth Decay Measured by Number of Teeth Affected

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding dental caries in children.

Table 8: Permanent Teeth, Severity of Tooth Decay Measured by Number of Tooth Surfaces Affected

 

Data Source: The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) has been an important source of information on oral health and dental care in the United States since the early 1970s. Tables 1 through 8 present the latest NHANES (collected between 1999 and 2004) data regarding dental caries in children.

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Last Reviewed
July 2018