How common is tooth decay?

Tooth decay is a common problem in all age groups.

  • Tooth decay is the most common long-lasting childhood disease. It is 5 times more common than asthma, and nearly 20% of children between 2 and 4 years of age have cavities.1, 2
  • By age 17, almost 80 percent of young people have had a cavity.2
  • More than two-thirds of adults age 35 to 44 years have lost at least one permanent tooth to cavities.2
  • About 50% of adults age 75 and older who have one or more of their own teeth have had decay in their roots.3


  1. Douglass JM, et al. (2004). A practical guide to infant oral health. American Family Physician, 70(11): 2113–2120.
  2. National Institute of Health (2001). Diagnosis and management of dental caries throughout life. NIH Consensus Statement, 18(1): 1–30.
  3. Truman BI, et al. (2002). Reviews of evidence on interventions to prevent dental caries, oral and pharyngeal cancers, and sport-related craniofacial injuries. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 23(1, Suppl): S21–S54.

Last Updated: July 17, 2009

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