LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--Tooth decay can have dangerous consequences. The CDC says it’s the most common chronic disease among children and young adults.

"Untreated cavities can abscess and the infection can spread to the brain, or to the heart,” explained Stephanie Poynter, the Dental Director at Family Health Centers.

In some cases tooth decay has killed people, which is one of many possible outcomes.

"If the cavities are so bad, then the children oftentimes will lose the teeth, which affects speech, aesthetics, self-confidence,” said Poynter.

Which she says isn't uncommon. "We see several children that come in with rampant decay."

But it’s all something that can be prevented.

"I think it has a lot to do with diet. Children are drinking juices, soft drinks, Kool-Aid, Gatorade, sports drinks. A lot of the sports drinks we think are great because they're hydrating us, but actually water is best in between meals,” explained Poynter.

Poynter says soda is the worst culprit and should be saved for special occasions like parties.

"Often times we discover that kids are drinking sugary beverages all throughout the day, at will and it's really hard to prevent a cavity at that point."

There are ways dentists can take protect your teeth, like adding a varnish. It’s one of several steps that can prevent more serious issues.

"Good hygiene as well as a good diet are important,” said Poynter.

If you don't have dental insurance, you can get help from the family health centers in Louisville. They charge on a sliding scale depending on what you can pay. Because the high demand, they're getting ready to open a second dental center at 834 E Broadway.

Poynter says make sure your children brush twice day, but always come in and brush a second time for them when they finish. It’s good to let them learn to brush on their own, but she says they may miss hard to reach areas.