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Protecting All Children's Teeth (PACT): A Pediatric Oral Health Training Program
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Dental Caries

52% of 12- to 19 year olds have experienced tooth decay in at least 1 tooth and 13% of adolescents have untreated caries. The pit and fissure surfaces of the molars are the most common site of caries.

The dynamic caries balance continues throughout adolescence, and the same factors that influence caries risk in children still exist in adolescence.

Health care providers should be mindful of the following risk factors for dental caries in adolescents:

  • Inadequate access to fluoride (especially topical fluoride) 
  • Poor oral hygiene 
  • Frequent access to sugars and acids
    • Sweetened sugar beverages including soda, sports drinks and juice
    • Sugared beverage consumption is also a risk for obesity and osteoporosis (especially in females)
    • Sour candy and sticky snacks
  • Previous caries experience  
  • Reduced salivary flow
  • Special health care needs 
  • Infrequent professional dental care
  • Risk factors that may first be noted in the adolescent, include eating disorders (see Chapter 12: Systemic Diseases) and orthodontic appliances that make performing oral hygiene more difficult.
Fast Facts
Nearly 80% of 17-year-olds have had at least one cavity in their lifetime.
Frequent snacking and regular exposure to acidic drinks such as soda are common risks for caries in adolescents.
A review of oral hygiene practices, diet, and fluoride intake is important at all routine visits.
Fluoride supplementation should continue until age 16 for all eligible children.
Chapter Photo Gallery
View the Chapter 13 Photo Gallery.
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