Cavity Facts

At a glance

Review facts about cavities in the United States.

A male with his hand on his cheek having tooth pain

Fast facts

  • Cavities, also called tooth decay, often go untreated.
  • Untreated cavities can cause pain and infections that may lead to problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning.
  • Untreated cavities can lead to abscess, a severe infection. This can spread to other parts of the body and have serious, and in rare cases fatal, results.
  • Children from low-income households are twice as likely to have untreated cavities as children from higher-income households.1
  • Among children aged 6 to 8 years, over half (52%) have had a cavity in their primary (baby) teeth.2
  • Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, more than half (57%) have had a cavity in their permanent teeth.2
  • Among adults aged 20 and older, about 90% have had at least one cavity.2
  • 1 in 4 adults aged 20 to 64 currently has at least one cavity.2
  1. Griffin SO, Wei L, Gooch BF, Weno K, Espinoza L. Vital signs: dental sealant use and untreated tooth decay among US school-aged children. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2016;65(41):1141–1145.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oral Health Surveillance Report: Trends in Dental Caries and Sealants, Tooth Retention, and Edentulism, United States, 1999–2004 to 2011–2016. U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services; 2019. /oral-health/php/data-research/2019-oral-health-surveillance-report/index.html