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Teenage Tooth Decay
Tooth Decay (dental caries)
in Permanent (Adult) Teeth
Tooth Decay (dental caries), both
treated and untreated, in all adolescents age 12 to 19 declined from the
early 1970s until the most recent (1999-2004) National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey. The decrease was significant in all but two population
subgroups (Mexican-Americans and those living in households between 100% and
199% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). In spite of this decline,
significant disparities are still found in some population groups.
Adolescents 12 to 19
have an average of 0.54 decayed or missing permanent teeth and 1.03
decayed permanent surfaces.
and those with lower incomes have more severe decay in permanent teeth.
Black and Hispanic
subgroups and those with lower incomes have more untreated permanent
Units of Measure:
Tooth Decay (dental caries) is measured by a dentist examining a personís teeth, and
recording the ones with untreated decay and the ones with fillings. This
provides three important numbers:
(filled teeth): this is the number of decayed teeth that have been
treated, which indicates access to dental care;
(decayed and missing teeth): this is the number decayed and missing
teeth that have not been treated, which measures unmet need; and
(decayed, missing, and filled teeth): this is the sum of DMT and FT, and
is the measure of personís 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.