Federal health officials say more than half the nation's 9-year-olds are coming home from the dentist and saying, "Look, mom, no cavities."
The National Centers for Disease Control reported last week that the latest survey by the National Institute of Dental Research shows that 51% of the nation's 9-year-olds are cavity-free.
That survey, taken in 1979-80, contrasts with 71% of the nation's 9-year-olds reporting cavities in 1971-73.
"The prevalence of dental decay among school-aged children appears to have been significantly reduced since 1973," the CDC said.
But the latest NIDR survey also reported that 89% of 17-year-olds have had dental cavities.
The report said the availability of fluorides "from a number of sources, including community and school water fluoridation, fluoride tablets and drops, fluoride rinses and dentifrices and clinically-applied fluorides, have contributed to the decline in dental caries."
But the CDC said although community water fluoridation remains the most effective and practical means of preventing and controlling dental cavities, "nearly half the U.S. population still does not have access to optimally fluoridated water."