Cavities, also known as dental caries, are one of the most common chronic diseases among children. They are caused by bacterial infection in the teeth, which leads to the destruction of the tooth enamel. This can result in pain, infection, and, in severe cases, tooth loss. The good news is that cavities are preventable and treatable. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention of cavities in children.
The symptoms of cavities in children may vary depending on the severity of the infection. In early stages, there may be no symptoms at all. As the infection progresses, the child may experience:
- Toothache or sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks
- Visible holes or pits in the teeth
- White, brown, or black spots on the teeth
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Swelling or redness in the gums
- Bad breath
- A sour or bitter taste in the mouth
If your child experiences any of these symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with a dentist.
Cavities are caused by bacterial infection in the teeth. The bacteria, known as Streptococcus mutans, live in the mouth and feed on sugars and carbohydrates from food and drinks. As they do this, they produce acid that can dissolve the tooth enamel. Over time, this can lead to the formation of cavities.
Factors that can increase a child’s risk of developing cavities include:
- Poor oral hygiene: Not brushing and flossing regularly can lead to a buildup of plaque and bacteria on the teeth.
- A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates: Consuming sugary and starchy foods and drinks can increase the amount of acid produced by bacteria in the mouth.
- Lack of fluoride: Fluoride is a mineral that can strengthen tooth enamel and help prevent cavities. Children who do not have access to fluoride-treated water or fluoride toothpaste may be at a higher risk of developing cavities.
- Dry mouth: Saliva helps to wash away bacteria and food particles in the mouth. Children who have a condition that causes dry mouth, such as Sjogren’s syndrome, may be at a higher risk of developing cavities.
The treatment for cavities in children will depend on the severity of the infection. In the early stages, a dentist may be able to treat the cavity with a fluoride treatment or a filling. In more advanced cases, a root canal or a crown may be necessary. In severe cases, the tooth may need to be extracted.
The best way to prevent cavities in children is through good oral hygiene and a healthy diet.
- Encourage your child to brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Help your child floss daily.
- Limit sugary and starchy foods and drinks.
- Encourage your child to drink water instead of sugary drinks.
- Make sure your child gets enough fluoride through their diet or fluoride supplements.
- Schedule regular dental checkups for your child.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Dental caries in children