Cavities are one of the most common dental problems seen in most kids. Also known as tooth decay, cavities can critically damage your child’s teeth if not treated. There are several ways to reduce the risk of cavities in kids once you know the cause. As such, we have listed below everything you need to know about cavities; right from their causes and signs to available treatment for cavities and ways to prevent cavities in kids.
A] Causes of Cavities in Kids
They are a lot of factors that can put your kid at an increased risk of cavities. Cavities occur due to the build-up of dental plaque – a sticky substance formed by the bacteria present in the mouth – which covers the teeth and creates tiny holes over time.
- Improper and irregular brushing is a major cause of tooth decay in kids. Many children simply do not know the proper way of brushing or do not follow the thumb rule of brushing twice a day for at least two minutes.
- Not only brushing, but diet also plays an important role in tooth decay. Most kids who eat a lot of candies, starchy foods or consume a large amount of sugary drinks are at a higher risk of developing cavities.
To maintain healthy teeth and prevent cavities, you need to ensure that your kids brush their teeth daily – in the morning and before going to bed at night. Also, limit their intake of unhealthy food and ensure that their diet consists of healthy meals and snacks.
B] Signs and Symptoms of Cavities
Usually, small children are unable to convey their pain and discomfort. Also, tooth decay or cavities do not cause pain until they reach the inner pulp area of the tooth. As such, parents need to watch their children, especially if he or she is acting differently while eating and if they have frequent toothaches. Identifying cavities at an early stage will not only prevent tooth decay, but would also ensure that your child doesn’t have to go through root canal treatment or worse yet, tooth extraction.
Some of the common signs of cavities in toddlers are as follows:
- Tooth sensitivity while consuming cold/hot food items
- Black spots on their teeth
- Swelling around the gums
- Pit or holes and white spots on the teeth
- Reluctance in eating
- Pain in the face or jaw
- Fatigue or lethargy
C] Treatment for Cavities in Kids
A child’s tooth decay treatment options would depend on the cause and the extent of the damage done to the teeth. Below are some of the common treatments for cavities in kids.
- Dental Fillings: One of the most common questions parents ask is; ‘is it necessary to have cavities filled in baby teeth?’ The answer is yes, it is necessary. Dental fillings prevent the tooth from deteriorating further. It is the most common type of dental treatment for child tooth decay. During the procedure, the dentist clears the decay and fills the pit or hole with a filling made from a composite resin. The dental filling usually blends in with the colour of their natural teeth.
- Tooth Extraction: When a baby tooth is severely decayed and damaged, the dentist may recommend a tooth extraction procedure. Tooth extraction is suggested when other treatments like a root canal or dental fillings are not enough to save the tooth. When the tooth is extracted, a gap opener along with a space maintainer will help the permanent teeth to grow without any complications. Also, to lessen the pain of tooth extraction, the dentist will numb the gum area with an injection before the procedure.
- Stainless Steel Crowns: Dental crowns are made from a safe metal and is easy to clean. They are tooth-shaped caps that help in covering the entire teeth and safeguards the tooth from further decaying. When dental fillings are not enough to restore your child’s teeth, paediatric dental crowns are recommended. For this, a root canal may be done on the child’s tooth, and a stainless steel crown is placed on the teeth. These crowns help in preserving the baby’s teeth from further damage until they are naturally lost.
- Pulpotomy: When the decay reaches the inner pulp area of the tooth, a pulpotomy may be needed. A pulpotomy is similar to a root canal but is only performed on children. It involves removing a small part of the inner pulp and replacing it with a material that can be absorbed by the body. It is performed on primary teeth & molars and also known as the ‘baby root canal.’
- Fluoride Treatments: Fluoride is an extremely important mineral that helps to strengthen your tooth enamel. Fluoride varnish treatment helps prevent the process of decay. It is a safe treatment where only a small amount of fluoride is used that quickly hardens when applied. Post the application, it is brushed off after 4 hours. While it is an excellent way to prevent cavities in kids, for best results, it is important to maintain dental hygiene through regular brushing, flossing, periodic visit to the dentist, and a healthy diet.
Further reading: Best And Worst Foods For Your Teeth
D] What Can You Do To Prevent Cavities in Kids?
- Routine Dental Check-ups: Kids should have their first dental check-up on their first birthday or when they get their first tooth. Visiting the dentist every 6 months will help detect tooth decay or cavities at the earliest and appropriate treatments can be used to prevent further damage. Some parents may believe that the baby’s teeth will soon be replaced by permanent teeth, so there is no need for a routine check-up. However, it is important to note that a strong foundation is necessary for the teeth to grow well.
- Practise Good Oral Hygiene Habits: Even before your child’s teeth start to show, you can begin by cleaning their gums with a soft, damp washcloth. This will help eliminate bacteria. Supervise your kids while they brush their teeth until they reach the age of 7 to 8. This will ensure that they don’t rush through the routine. You can also use a timer to ensure your child brushes his/her teeth for full two minutes.
Further reading: Dental Hygiene For Kids: Ways To Protect Your Child’s Teeth
- Use Fluoride-rich Toothpaste: Fluoride toothpaste prevents cavities in kids, strengthens tooth enamel, and limits the growth of harmful bacteria in the mouth. Regular use of fluoride-rich toothpaste can help harden the enamel, preventing acids from penetrating it. However, note, too much use of fluoride can cause discolouration of teeth, and if swallowed in large quantities, it can lead to stomach upset.
- Avoiding Sugary Foods: Sweet sticky candies, toffees, chips, sugary food & juices are harmful as they stick to the teeth and erode the enamel, which causes cavities. When your kids eat these foods, make sure to rinse their mouth afterwards. This will help dislodge the food particles trapped in between the teeth. Having a healthy diet, as mentioned above, is not only important for your kids’ dental health but can also improve their overall general health.
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