CDC Reports Fewer Caries Among Youth Age 2 to 19 Years

Dentistry Today


While dental caries remains the most common chronic disease among children and adolescents between the ages of 2 and 19, the prevalence of caries among them seems to be decreasing, according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the prevalence of caries remains particularly high among minority populations and among those with lower incomes.

“We decided that our study would focus on dental caries because of the serious and negative impact untreated caries can have on children,” said lead author Eleanor Fleming, PhD, DDS, MPH. “Untreated caries cause pain and infection. Children miss days from school and have their overall quality of life affected by untreated dental caries.”

The prevalence of total dental caries untreated and treated in primary or permanent teeth among youth between the ages of 2 and 19 years dropped from 50.0% in 2011 and 2012 to 43.1% in 2015 and 2016. Specifically, the prevalence of untreated caries dropped from 16.1% in 2011 and 2012 to 13.0% in 2015 and 2016.

“The trend analysis shows that the prevalence of untreated and total caries is decreasing. However, there are still disparities that exist,” said Fleming. “Because monitoring prevalence of untreated and total caries is key to preventing and controlling oral diseases, these disparities are important.”

The prevalence of total dental caries was highest for Hispanic youth (52.0%), compared to non-Hispanic black (44.3%), non-Hispanic Asian (42.6%), non-Hispanic white (39.0%) youth. The prevalence of untreated dental caries was highest among non-Hispanic black youth (17.1%) compared to Hispanic (13.5%), non-Hispanic white (11.7%), and non-Hispanic Asian (10.5%) youth.

Economics play a role as well, as the prevalence of total dental caries decreased as family incomes increased, from 51.8% among youth from families living below the federal poverty level to 34.2% for youth from families with income levels greater than 300% of the federal poverty level.

“There is also concern among the public health community that children who may have access to Medicaid dental benefits are not receiving the care that they need,” said Fleming. “The examination of income levels in our new report might offer some needed insight into this concern.”

The CDC based these figures on the results of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics, this cross-sectional survey consists of home interviews followed by standardized physical examinations in mobile examination centers. 

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