Cavities can occur at any age, but they are quite common in kids. If you are a parent, you should be on the lookout for cavities so you can get your child proper dental care if a cavity does develop. So, what are the signs that your child has a cavity? And what do you do if you suspect they have one? Keep reading to learn all of this and more.
Signs Your Child Has a Cavity
Understanding a little more about cavities and what they really are can help you recognize the signs of a cavity. Put simply, cavities are little spots of decay on the teeth. They happen when bacteria on the teeth secrete acid that wears away the enamel of the teeth. These bacteria secrete more acid when there’s a lot of sugar around for them to eat, which is why eating more sugar puts kids at a higher risk for cavities.
With that in mind, let’s review the following common signs of cavities in kids.
Spots on the Teeth
Sometimes, you can actually see a cavity on the surface of the tooth. It will look like a black or brown spot. It is not always round. Sometimes, it may have jagged edges or be oddly shaped.
Do note that not all cavities are visible. Small, new cavities may not be visible at all. And sometimes, cavities form between the teeth where they are really hard to see. So, you should not assume that your child does not have a cavity just because you can’t see one. Look for the following signs as well.
Cavities can sometimes get deep enough to expose the sensitive nerve tissue in a tooth. When this happens, the teeth become sensitive. Your child may stop eating really cold or hot foods. They may tell you that these foods hurt their teeth, or they may wince when they bite into one of these foods.
If your child used to love popsicles and has stopped eating them, it might be because they have a cavity. If they used to love hot chocolate but won’t drink it anymore, that could be a sign of a cavity, too.
There are a lot of possible causes for bad breath. Some kids develop bad breath simply because they don’t brush their teeth often enough. But if your child brushes their teeth thoroughly and their breath still stinks, it could be because of a cavity. Cavities, as you may recall, are caused by oral bacteria. Tooth brushing alone won’t remove them from a cavity.
Is your child complaining that their tooth or mouth hurts? This could be a sign of a cavity. Cavities don’t usually cause pain until they are pretty big. So, a cavity that is causing pain needs to be treated ASAP.
What To Do If You Think Your Child Has a Cavity
If you think your child has a cavity, you can explain to them that their tooth has a boo-boo, but that the dentist can fix it soon. This can help them feel better about the problem. Then, you should call your child’s dentist.
Treating a Cavity
A cavity is not an emergency, but it is an urgent dental problem. So, your child’s dentist should schedule an appointment within a few days.
Once your child is in the dental chair, their dentist will take a look at the tooth and see whether there is, indeed, a cavity there. They may also take some x-rays to see whether there are additional cavities between the teeth.
If your child does have a cavity, then the dentist can fill it. This can be a little scary for kids the first time around, but a pediatric dentist will do their very best to keep your child comfortable. They’ll use a local anesthetic to numb the area they will be working on, so your child won’t feel pain as the dentist drills out the decayed tooth material.
Once the decayed tooth material is gone, the dentist will fill the hole left behind. Usually, they will use a tooth-colored composite to do this. So, when the work is complete, you won’t even be able to see where the cavity was. The filling will be the same color as the tooth.
Sometimes, really deep or large cavities can’t be treated with just a filling. Removing all of the decayed tooth tissue may leave the tooth too weak. In cases like this, the dentist may also need to put a crown over the tooth for more protection. If your child needs a crown, they will often need to come back to the dentist for a second appointment. At this second appointment, the crown will be fitted.
After your child sees the dentist, you can take them home. The local anesthetic will wear off within an hour or two, and then your child can eat or drink like usual. Their tooth might still be a little sensitive to hot and cold foods for a few days, but this should soon fade.
Your child can keep caring for the filled tooth just like they would a normal tooth. They can and should brush it and the rest of their teeth twice a day and floss daily.
Preventing Additional Cavities
After your child has one cavity, it is a good idea to examine their routine and take some steps to help prevent them from getting more cavities. Some good steps to take include the following.
A few pieces of candy or a piece of cake on a birthday are one thing. Kids deserve to enjoy the occasional treat. But if you can limit the amount of sugar in their everyday diet, they’ll be less prone to cavities.
Instead of offering juice to drink, offer water. Juice is just as sugary as soda in many cases. Your child is better off getting their nutrients from whole fruits and vegetables. Fruit contains sugar, but the sugar is less concentrated and does not bathe the teeth like the sugar in juice.
Help Them Brush
Depending on your child’s age, you may want to go back to helping them brush their teeth for a while. Or, just observe them brushing and offer some tips to help them do a more thorough job. Setting a timer for 2 minutes is a good way to make sure your child brushes for long enough.
Consider Fluoride Treatments
Ask your child’s dentist if they could benefit from fluoride treatments. These treatments help harden the teeth and make them more resistant to cavities. Most children get enough fluoride in water and toothpaste, but if your child is not getting enough, a fluoride treatment may be wise.
Many children develop a few cavities throughout their childhood. The best thing to do is take them to the dentist, and then work on improving their diet and dental care. If you’re looking for a pediatric dentist, feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to assist with your child’s tooth care needs.