Facts About Tooth Decay


young girl - preventing tooth decayPediatric dental disease, also known as childhood tooth decay, is the #1 chronic childhood illness in America.  Childhood tooth decay can have devastating consequences on a child’s health and wellness that extend beyond the dental chair.

Did you know?

  • 1 in 5 U.S. children go without dental care
  • More than 40% of children have dental cavities by the time they reach kindergarten
  • Children with poor oral health are 3 times more likely to miss school as a result of dental pain
  • Emergency department care for dental complaints cost up to $2.1 billion in 2010
  • Dental care is the most prevalent unmet health care need for children with special needs

Left untreated, severe tooth decay can lead to malnourishment, anemia, emergency surgery, life-threatening secondary infections and death. Seriously impacting self-esteem, employment prospects, social development and overall quality of life, untreated tooth decay and gum 
disease also have a direct correlation to heart disease, stroke, pulmonary disease and pre-term, low birth-weight babies.

With limited or no access to oral health care, children from impoverished families and some minority groups have a much higher rate of tooth decay. These children are at significant risk for impaired cognitive and social development, educational disparities and a lifetime of shame associated with dental disease.

While the Affordable Care Act expands dental benefit coverage for children, it does not address critical access to care issues caused by the loss of school-based dental education programs, state budget cuts, low reimbursement rates that prevent providers from accepting Medicaid patients, health professional shortage areas, and the overall lack of Medicaid dollars going toward dental care.

Lack of access to pediatric dental care creates a set of health disparities that impede wellness throughout adulthood. As a result, a significant burden is placed on local communities, exacerbating poverty, increasing long-term health consequences, decreasing workforce productivity and draining significant personal and governmental financial resources.

The good news? Tooth decay is preventable!

America’s ToothFairy: National Children’s Oral Health Foundation® was formed in 2006 to provide an aggressive collaborative response to eliminate children’s preventable suffering from pediatric dental disease. The America’s ToothFairy extensive community-based network includes dental and health professionals, generous corporations, nonprofit community health programs, civic and youth organizations and caring individuals in every state.

Learn more about dental health and America’s ToothFairy’s position on important oral health issues. Check out our Parents Corner for ways to prevent tooth decay, help your family maintain a healthy smile and Tips from the ToothFairy! Also learn how you can Get Involved in preventing tooth decay in your community!