“Your child has a cavity.” Those are the last words any parent wants to hear when they take their little ones to visit their family dentist in Fort Worth. Yet, if you’ve landed on this article, you’re probably concerned your child may have developed a cavity or two—but don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, about 60 percent of children will develop cavities by age 5. While cavities are commonplace and may even seem like a minor issue, it’s important to address them right away. The bottom line is that a cavity (otherwise known as tooth decay) is a disease, and if left untreated, it can have long-lasting impacts that go far beyond a toothache. Cavities can result in infection, chewing difficulty, malnutrition, and speech impediments that can harm their development. They can even affect the health of your child’s permanent teeth once they come in, leaving them susceptible to cavities and gum disease throughout their life.
In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about cavities, how you can spot them, and what you can do to keep your child’s smile healthy and cavity-free.
How Can Cavities Develop in Children?
All children are at risk of developing cavities as soon as their first tooth comes in, but some factors that may increase that risk include the following:
- Poor Oral Hygiene. Not brushing or flossing often enough allows plaque to build on the teeth and the acid from the plaque will eventually eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities.
- Sugary Foods and Drinks. Eating lots of sugary foods or drinks throughout the day can increase acid build-up on teeth, increasing the odds of a cavity forming.
- Bottle Use Before Bed. Little ones who go to sleep with bottles, drink juice out of bottles, or use bottles as pacifiers have an increased risk of developing cavities.
- Genetics. Some kids may be more prone to cavities because they naturally have weaker enamel or some other genetic factor, like low saliva production or tooth shape. A visit with your family dentist can let you know if your child shows signs of any genetic factors that make them predisposed to cavities.
Signs and Symptoms of Cavities in Children
Symptoms and signs of cavities vary from person to person and can be particularly difficult to diagnose at home with little ones. Cavities often start with tooth sensitivity that may be mistaken for teething in toddlers or infants. Other times, your child might not even exhibit any obvious signs or symptoms until the cavity has progressed to the point of no return.
With that said, there are some tell-tale signs and symptoms you should keep an eye on and discuss with your Fort Worth family dentist should they appear.
Make it a habit to inspect your child’s mouth for the following signs of discoloration or damage:
- White or chalky spots on the teeth or near the gumline.
- A yellow, brown, or black discoloration on the surface or grooves of the teeth.
- A hole, dent, or pit in the tooth.
Your child may also exhibit physical symptoms, including:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or beverages.
- Persistent bad breath.
- General tooth sensitivity or pain that seems to occur out of nowhere, whether they’re eating, talking, or doing nothing at all.
- If your child is too young to articulate their tooth pain, fussiness can also indicate that they’re experiencing discomfort from a cavity.
As we mentioned earlier, your child may not have any symptoms with a cavity—especially if the decay is in the early stages. Plus, cavities are sometimes invisible to the naked eye and can only be diagnosed with the help of an x-ray. That’s why regular visits with your Fort Worth family dentist are important. Your dentist can help spot and maybe even reverse the progression of cavities before they require more intensive treatments.
Treating Cavities in Children
Luckily, if caught in the very early stages, cavities can be reversed by your family dentist. In this case, your dental practitioner may provide a professional fluoride treatment to each cavity to reverse the tooth decay and restore the enamel. However, once the tooth decay advances, they may suggest fillings or other restorative treatments, like placing a crown over the affected tooth.
Of course, getting little ones to sit down for a dental procedure can sometimes feel like pulling teeth. If your child has multiple cavities that require more intensive treatments, our dentists may recommend breaking up the appointments to make things easier on them. While this may take more time out of your schedule, it can put your child at ease, knowing they won’t have to sit in the dentist’s chair for an extended period of time. Our dentist may also offer nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to soothe their nerves during their procedure if they have trouble sitting still or have dental anxiety.
How Can I Prevent My Kid From Developing Cavities?
By following the below tips and instilling good habits at an early age, you can prevent cavities and set the foundation for a healthy smile that will last a lifetime:
- Help your child brush their teeth for 2-3 minutes in the morning and right before bedtime until they’re old enough to perform this task by themselves (this is usually around eight years old). Toddlers generally only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to get the job done.
- Once your child has teeth that are touching, you should floss their teeth at least once per day.
- Avoid serving up sugary meals and snacks, and keep their cups filled with drinking water instead of juice or soda.
- Don’t let your child fall asleep at night time or naptime with a bottle or sippy cup of juice or milk.
- If you live in an area that doesn’t have fluoride in the drinking water, ask your dentist about the right toothpaste for your child.
- Go to your Fort Worth family dentist for their routine dental cleaning and check-up at least every 6 months as soon as their first tooth comes in. This allows for ongoing assessment of your child’s teeth so they can spot cavities or any other problems early on.
Is It Time to See Your Fort Worth Family Dentist?
Despite every parent’s best efforts, it’s still fairly common for children to develop the occasional cavity. Fortunately, fixing cavities is easy when you partner with a Fort Worth family dentist you can trust.
Whether your child needs treatment for a cavity or just needs a checkup, the friendly team at Smile Fort Worth strives to make dental care a stress-free and enjoyable experience. We know how to put children, ranging from small babies all the way up to maturing teenagers, at ease. Plus, we use restorative treatments that are designed to last and look natural, so your child can smile with confidence. Contact us today to schedule your appointment. We can’t wait to serve you and your family!