Discovering that your child has a cavity can be a concern for any parent or caregiver. However, cavities are a very common issue and can be prevented and treated by taking proactive steps to address the issue promptly can help maintain their dental health and prevent further dental problems. In this guide, we will walk you through the necessary steps to take when your child has a cavity, from confirming its presence to seeking professional dental care. By understanding the causes of cavities and learning how to manage them, you’ll be better equipped to navigate this common dental concern. Remember, early intervention and proactive dental care can make a significant difference in your child’s oral health journey. By following these steps and implementing preventive measures, you can ensure that your child’s oral health and smile always look their best and that they develop lifelong habits for maintaining a healthy smile.
What is a Cavity and What Causes Them?
A cavity is tooth decay, which is a small hole or damaged area in the toothâ€™s surface. Itâ€™s often caused by a combination of factors, but is usually from the interaction between bacteria in the mouth, the foods and drinks consumed, and poor oral hygiene. Your mouth naturally contains a variety of bacteria, some of which form a sticky film also known as plaque on your teeth. This plaque feeds on sugars and starches from the foods you eat, and as a byproduct, produces acid. This acid dissolves your tooth enamel which is the protective layer of your teeth. Over time, repeated exposure to these acids weaken the enamel and a cavity begins to form. Several factors can increase the risk of your child getting cavities:
Poor Oral Hygiene
Poor oral hygiene habits such as insufficient brushing, flossing, and overall dental health allows plaque and bacteria to build up in your childâ€™s mouth and increases the chances of them getting a cavity or developing other dental issues.
Frequent consumption of sugary and starchy foods and drinks provides more fuel for the bacteria in your mouth to produce acid and eat away at the enamel on your childâ€™s teeth causing cavities.
Saliva helps neutralize acids and remineralize your childâ€™s teeth which can help prevent cavities. A dry mouth which can be caused by certain medications or medical conditions can often contribute to cavities. If your child experiences dry mouth, encourage them to drink more water to help neutralize the acids in their mouth.
Lack of Fluoride
Fluoride helps strengthen the enamel of your childâ€™s teeth and protects against acid erosion that causes cavities. A lack of fluoride may make your childâ€™s teeth more susceptible to tooth decay.
Some children may be more prone to cavities due to genetic factors affecting the strength of their enamel and the composition of their saliva. If you or another family member is prone to cavities, your child may also have the same issue. In this case, knowledge is power. If you do get cavities, itâ€™s important to make healthy oral health choices for your children to prevent the likelihood of them developing cavities.
Children are usually at higher risk for developing cavities due to factors like developing new teeth which may be more vulnerable or susceptible to tooth decay or other dental issues.
Is it a Cavity?
If you suspect that your child has a cavity, it’s important to address the issue quickly to prevent further dental problems down the road. Here’s what you should do:
Confirm itâ€™s a Cavity
If you notice any discoloration or small holes on your child’s teeth or they complain about abnormal teeth sensitivity or pain, it may be a cavity. The first step is to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist to confirm if itâ€™s in fact a cavity. Prolonging this is not only uncomfortable for your child, but it could make the cavity or tooth decay worse.
Consult a Pediatric Dentist
If your child does have a cavity, all hope is not lost. Cavities are a very common dental concern that can be treated. Dentists are trained to identify and treat a variety of dental health concerns. Your dentist will be able to locate any cavities or dental problems, offer advice and dental hygiene tips, and treat any current dental issues. Depending on the severity of tooth decay, your dentist may recommend sealants, dental filling, and/or fluoride treatments to treat and protect your childâ€™s teeth for the future.
Teach Oral Hygiene Habits
The habits we teach our kids will likely stay with them for a lifetime and itâ€™s never too late to start teaching healthy habits, especially when it comes to oral hygiene. Sometimes, a cavity can serve as a wake-up call to improve dental hygiene practices. Proper oral hygiene can prevent cavities and maintain a beautiful smile in your child. Encourage your child to maintain good oral hygiene practices daily. Regular brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and regular flossing can help prevent further cavities from developing in the first place.
Encourage a Healthy Diet
Your childâ€™s diet can have an effect on their overall health, including their dental health. For healthy teeth and gums, itâ€™s important to encourage them to eat a healthy, balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and proteins. Limit sugary snacks and drinks, as they can contribute to cavities and dental issues from forming.
Consider Fluoride Treatment
Fluoride has been proven to strengthen enamel and protect against acid erosion which breaks down the enamel on the teeth and causes cavities. Without adequate fluoride exposure, teeth are more susceptible to decay. Make sure the toothpaste you buy for your child is formulated with fluoride and encourage them to drink more water. Not only does water help dilute acids which damage the teeth but most water has fluoride added to it, which strengthens and protects the teeth. Your dentist may also recommend fluoride treatments to strengthen your child’s teeth and help prevent further decay.
Schedule Regular Dental Checkups
After addressing the cavity, ensure your child continues to visit the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. These appointments help catch any potential dental issues early and maintain overall oral health. During the dental visit, the dentist will assess the health of your childâ€™s teeth and gums and clean away plaque, tartar, and bacteria from your childâ€™s teeth. Dentists recommend regular checkups every six months to maintain good oral health.
Address Any Dental Anxiety
Visiting the dentist is probably not at the top of anyoneâ€™s to-do list in terms of fun experiences. If your child feels scared or anxious about dental visits, talk to the dentist about strategies to make the experience more comfortable and fun. Some dentists such as the team at Fab Dental specialize in treating children and use child-friendly techniques to help ease anxiety and make the experience easier and more enjoyable.
Remember, if your child gets a cavity, itâ€™s not the end of the world. However, the best way to handle cavities is to prevent them in the first place through good oral hygiene habits and regular dental checkups. If your child does develop a cavity, addressing it quickly will help prevent further complications or dental issues and maintain their dental health for years to come.