Cavities in Kids – Symptoms and Treatments
Also known as tooth decay, cavities in kids is one of the most commonly reported problems. Cavities have nothing to do with age. Even a toddler can develop tooth decay. Although you might ignore cavities in a toddler with the thinking that they will lose their baby teeth, anyway. This is an unhealthy mindset to adapt. If your child develops a cavity at a young age, they are more likely to have a set of unhealthy teeth after they grow permanent ones.
What is Tooth Decay in Children?
Tooth decay is the destruction of tooth enamel. Enamel is the thin layer at the outer side of the tooth. It is the strongest tissue in the human body. It covers the teeth that are visible outside the gum. Tooth decay leads to cavities which are caused by bacteria and plaque buildup.
Related Read: Dental Care Tips for People at Different Stages of Life
Here is everything you need to know about cavities in kids, that includes symptoms, causes, treatments, and advice on prevention.
Which Children are at Risk of Tooth Decay?
Because of the presence of bacteria in every child’s mouth, they are all at risk of tooth decay. There is no specific category to it. But what increases the risk? Take a look at it.
- Negligence of attention to oral hygiene
- Saliva flow is less than average.
- A high intake of sugars and starches.
- No fluoride in the water supply.
- Presence of high bacteria.
What Causes Tooth Decay in a Child?
As a parent, you are always concerned about their oral hygiene. You might have taken care of it, yet your child ended up with a cavity. Now, what causes cavities in children?
Bacteria is the leading cause of tooth decay. A buildup of dental plaque eats the tooth enamel, causing a hole in it. This is the reason we are taught to brush our teeth twice a day and floss regularly.
Following the basic oral hygiene rules will prevent plaque that causes cavities. Plaque is a sticky substance that covers the teeth and forms bacteria in the mouth.
Brushing teeth twice a day and regular flossing helps in the prevention of plaque buildup. Since you cannot always track what your child eats that is causing high bacteria in their mouth, make sure that they brush their teeth twice a day.
Incorrectly brushing or flossing makes their teeth vulnerable to cavities. Until the age of 6, children cannot brush or floss correctly. As adults, it is your responsibility to teach them the proper method.
Good oral hygiene isn’t the only thing to take care of. A healthy and clean diet plays an important role as well. Excessive intake of sugar, starch, and carbohydrates increases the risk of cavities in children. Such foods include candy, chocolate, chips, ice cream, and soda.
What are the Symptoms of Cavities in a Child?
Here are some common symptoms of tooth decay in children:
- White spots are formed. These are early signs of breaking of enamel and teeth sensitivity.
- Watch out for brown spots. They are early cavities. They can turn into shades of deeper brown or black.
You might miss the above signs as they are not significant until a dentist notices them. But there are some physical signs.
- Your child may develop sensitivity to certain foods that they did not have earlier.
- Pain around the teeth when they chew
If they experience excruciating pain that lasts long, please consult a dentist immediately. This will prevent any further damages.
How Is Tooth Decay Diagnosed in a Child?
Only a dentist can make a thorough diagnosis of cavities in kids. They make the diagnosis based on:
- Dental x-rays
- History of the child
- A complete examination of your child’s mouth
How Is Tooth Decay Treated in a Child?
There are many ways in which a cavity is treated in children, but among them, tooth filling, dental crowns, and sealants are the most common ones.
This treatment is the most common one in children and toddlers because of its flexible nature. Tooth filling can be done on permanent teeth and baby teeth.
In this procedure, the dentist removes the decay from the tooth, and then the hole is filled with metal material or a white composite.
Filling a baby tooth is vital because losing it prematurely can cause damage to the permanent teeth.
If the cavity is at its severe stage, dentists recommend a dental crowns. It is typically silver.
If a baby tooth is decayed badly, the dentist will extract it and keep the gap open with a retainer to help grow the permanent tooth in its proper place.
The dental crowns are usually made of porcelain or white metal.
Related Read: Am I a Suitable Candidate for Dental Crowns?
Dental sealants are transparent coating the dentist puts on your child’s back teeth to protect the molars and prevent them from cavities.
They usually place sealants in the molars that are at the far back of your mouth. The most common position for the cavity to form in your child’s mouth is at the back, since it is the chewing area.
This is when sealants are helpful. They are invisible plastic covering that smooth out the biting surfaces of the back teeth, making them decay-resistant.
If your child’s tooth is sealed, they are less likely to develop any cavities over there.
How Can I Help Prevent Tooth Decay in My Child?
As parents, you will step the extra mile to prevent your child from any harm. To prevent cavities in your kids, you can follow these simple steps:
- Make sure you brush your baby’s teeth as soon as you see the first one sprouting up. Since the beginning, taking care of their oral hygiene is the best way to lead a much better oral health.
- Flossing at 2 is a great way to curb the formation of bacteria in the mouth.
- One of the leading causes of cavities is the absence of fluoride in the water. Studies show that water fluoridation can reduce tooth decay by 18 to 40%. Consult your dentist for using a fluoride supplement.
- A clean diet is also essential. Make sure you limit your child’s intake of sugars, starches and carbohydrates.
- Use pea-sized toothpaste quantity for kids older than 3.
- Transfer of bacteria can also be a primary cause of cavity. Avoid sharing the utensils you use with your kids. This helps to curb the spread of bacteria.
Visit Your Dentist!
Before you visit your local dentist, make sure you go prepared. Keep this in mind:
- Having questions jotted down will prevent you from forgetting anything important.
- If your dentist is providing a new diagnosis or medications, write them down.
- Ask questions. Ask them why they are recommending new medications or why asking for certain diagnosis.
- Know the drawbacks your child will face if they refuse to take the prescribed medicines or the tests.
- If your child has a follow-up appointment, make sure you note the time and date.
Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental practice in Salem, MA. Dr. Isaac strives for quality on a daily basis and this commitment to quality is reflected in her constant pursuit of advanced training. Her firm belief that even experts need to stay updated about what’s new in the dental field, enables her to provide every patient with optimal oral care. As the founder of Coral Dental Care, she is dedicated to creating healthy, beautiful smiles for her patients and also to educating dental and non-dental community with her engaging articles on all things related to oral health, recent dental innovations, and latest treatment modalities.