Cavities are among the most common dental problems in toddlers and children. Also known as caries or tooth decay, a cavity refers to a permanently damaged area in a tooth. According to the CDC, over half (52%) of the children in the age group of 5-8 years have had a cavity in their primary teeth. Among adolescents aged 12 to 19, more than half (57%) have had a cavity in their permanent teeth.
While cavities are very common in children, if left untreated, they can lead to infection and pain. This can cause problems with eating, speaking, and learning. Hygiene maintenance and checkup can help in preventing cavities in kids.
Causes of cavities in kids
While growing up, we all were told how important it was to brush our teeth twice a day and to keep sugary treats to a minimum. This was not without a reason.
The bacteria in our mouths feed on sugary foods and processed carbohydrates. This creates bacteria clusters and causes a layer of plaque to form. This in turn causes acidic waste to seep into the teeth resulting in enamel loss.
The key cause of cavities is neglecting dental hygiene, which promotes the growth of bacteria making the tooth prone to developing cavities. Some factors that may increase the risk of cavities include an unhealthy oral microbiome, acidic conditions in the mouth, and saliva quality.
- Common causes of cavities in babies and toddlers
- Poor dental hygiene. Cleaning should start as soon as the first tooth erupts.
- Consuming too many sugary foods and drinks frequently during the day
- Going to bed with a bottle allowing sugar to deposit onto the teeth creating the perfect environment for bacteria to grow
Causes of cavities in older kids
- Consuming too many sugary, starchy, and high-carb snacks such as cookies, cakes, etc.
- Poor dental hygiene
- Poor diet lacking essential nutrients
- Drinking water with little to no fluoride
- Skipping dentist appointments
Signs of cavities in kids
If your child has dental cavities, he/she may show some of the following signs:
- Dark spots or white spots on the tooth
- Crying or fussiness
- Mouth swelling
- Formation of light brown color on the tooth
- A hole in the tooth
- Avoiding food
- Reactions to cold or sweet foods
If the child has any of the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention because untreated cavities can have long-term and life-threatening consequences.
- Fever or other signs of infection
- Increased pain or swelling
- Trouble eating
- Pus draining from the tooth
Prevention of dental cavities in kids
Inculcate good dental hygiene habits: Make sure your kids have good brushing and flossing habits. Starting early would help them stick to their dental hygiene routine throughout their lives. Brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing once a day must be encouraged. It is recommended that till the age of 6-8 years kids should be helped with brushing. It is also important to teach your child the right way to brush their teeth.
Regular dental check-ups: You must take your child to the dentist once every six months starting shortly after their first tooth erupts. This will help identify problems (if any) at an early stage and ensure that their teeth are healthy.
Avoid the wrong foods and give tooth-friendly foods: Most of us know what foods to avoid to prevent cavities. However, as important as it is to avoid certain foods, it is equally important to give your kids foods that are good for their teeth. These include foods rich in calcium, protein, Vitamin C, and foods that help maintain a healthy microbiome.
Despite following good dental hygiene practices, the kids may still develop cavities. If that happens, you should not worry. All you need to do is schedule an appointment with your dentist. Depending on whether the affected tooth is a baby tooth or a permanent tooth and how severe the decay is the dentist will treat the cavities with a dental filling or a dental crown.