Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. HC 2.10 Dental Caries

01/01/2000

“Dental caries” refers to decay in one or more teeth. Proper preventive care reduces the incidence of dental caries. The presence of dental caries may indicate a lack of access to preventive care or a lack of information about preventive techniques.41 Additionally, children who do not receive restorative treatment for existing dental caries may experience much pain and suffering and may frequently miss school, and the functioning of their teeth may be permanently harmed.42

Differences by Race/Ethnicity.43 Mexican American children ages 2 through 5 had the highest prevalence of dental caries in their primary teeth (see Figure HC 2.10). From 1988 to 1994, one-third of Mexican American children had dental caries, compared with 24.2 percent of non-Hispanic black children and 13.6 percent of non-Hispanic white children. Mexican American and non-Hispanic black children ages 6 through 14 were about twice as likely as non-Hispanic white children to have dental caries in their permanent teeth (see Figure HC 2.10).

Differences by Poverty Status. The prevalence of dental caries is disproportionately concentrated among children from low-income families. Among children ages 2 to 5, 29.7 percent of poor children had caries in their primary teeth, compared to 14.4 percent of nonpoor children. Among older children, 19.5 percent of poor children had caries in their permanent teeth, while 8.6 of non-poor children did (see Table HC 2.10). Additionally, poor children, who are less likely than other children to receive dental services, are at a higher risk of suffering from untreated dental caries.44,45

Figure HC 2.10 Percentage of children ages 2 through 14 in the United States with untreated dental caries, by age and race/ethnicity:a 1988-1994

Figure HC 2.10 Percentage of children ages 2 through 14 in the United States with untreated dental caries, by age and race/ethnicity:a 1988-1994

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

Sources: Unpublished estimates from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (conducted between 1988 and 1994) calculated by the Division of Epidemiology, Office of Analysis, Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control. Vargas, Crall, and Schneider, 1998, 1229-1238 (Tables 2 and 5).


Table HC 2.10 Percentage of children ages 2 through 14 in the United States with untreated dental caries, by age, race/ethnicity, and poverty status:a 1988-1994

  Total Above poverty level At or below poverty level
Ages 2-5 (caries in primary teeth)
   All children 18.7 14.4 29.7
   White, non-Hispanic 13.6 11.3 25.6
    Black, non-Hispanic 24.2 21.8 26.4
    Mexican American 33.9 30.2 37.7
Ages 6-14 (caries inpermanent teeth)
    All children 11.3 8.6 19.5
    White, non-Hispanic 8.5 7.2 15.8
    Black, non-Hispanic 18.0 16.7 19.8
    Mexican American 16.9 12.0 22.2

a Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

Sources: Unpublished estimates from the Third National Health and Nutrition Survey (conducted between 1988 and 1994) calculated by the Division of Epidemiology, Office of Analysis, Epidemiology and Health Promotion, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control; Vargas, Crall, & Schneider, 1998.


41 Kaste, L.M., Selwitz, R.H., Oldakowski, R.J., Brunelle, J.A., Winn, D.M., & Brown, L.J. 1996. Coronal Caries in the Primary and Permanent Dentition of Children and Adolescents 1-17 Years of Age: United States 1988-1991. Journal of Dental Research 75 (Spec Iss): 631-641.

42 Lewit, E.M., & Kerrebrock, N. 1998. Child Indicators: Dental Health. The Future of Children 8 (1): 133-142.

43 Estimates for whites and blacks exclude Hispanics of those races.

44 Vargas, C.M., Crall, J.J., & Schneider, D.A. 1998. Sociodemographic Distribution of Pediatric Dental Caries: NHANES III, 1988-1994. Journal of the American Dental Association 129: 1229-1238 (Tables 2 and 5).

45 Lewit, 1998.

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