The Number One (Preventable) Childhood Disease Part 1

Do you know what the number one disease is for children?

It’s four times more common than asthma in adolescents ages 14-17. It’s also largely preventable. So why, why are we not preventing tooth decay? That’s right! Tooth decay is the leading disease among children ages 6 to 17.

In the first of this two-part series, we’re going to talk about tooth decay. What it is, how it happens, the early warning signs, and who is most at risk.

What is tooth decay?

You hear it in toothpaste commercials and from the dentist, but what is tooth decay? Tooth decay is the destruction of the tooth’s enamel, which is the outer layer of the teeth. While the deterioration of the enamel can be a problem at any age, this damage often starts in childhood. Every day, plaque, a sticky bacteria, forms on your teeth. When the plaque sticks to your teeth, it finds every little crevice it can to latch on to, and it doesn’t want to let go! Even if you brush well, it’s possible you aren’t hitting every spot. This plaque harms your tooth enamel and that is when cavities can start to form.

Early warning signs

While each child is different, there are a few similarities in the early warning signs of tooth decay.

As the tooth enamel breaks down, white spots appear on the teeth. Some of these spots may be visible to you if they are on the front of the teeth. Others are only visible to the dentist, as they use mirrors and lights to check each tooth. These spots can also lead to tooth sensitivity.
The next stage is when the cavity forms. It starts as a light brown that changes to a darker shade of brown and finally black as the cavity deepens.

Who is most at risk?

While anyone is at risk for tooth decay, there are a few factors that make an individual even more likely to be as risk. Those factors can include:

  • A diet high in starch and sugar
  • Water supply without fluoride
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Higher levels of the bacteria what causes cavities


Join us for part two of our article, as we tackle the problem of tooth decay– how to prevent it, and fun ways to encourage your child to embrace lifelong healthy oral habits.

SBA Books