Beginning around age three, children’s teeth are susceptible to cavities. At Smile On Dental Salon & Sleep Apnea Center, we take tooth cavity preventative treatment very seriously, especially when it comes to young children ages 3 – 9.
Causes of Tooth Decay In a Child
Tooth decay involves the breakdown and eventual destruction of enamel, which comprises the hard outer surface of a tooth and serves as a capable protective barrier. When the enamel is compromised, decay can ensue, resulting in holes in the teeth (cavities).
Tooth decay in a child isn’t much different from tooth decay in an adult. Foods and beverages high in sugars and starches – soda, candy, fruit juice, bread, milk, etc. – remain on the teeth and gums after consumption. In the absence of regular brushing, the mouth’s naturally-occurring bacteria converts these substances into acids, and before long the combination of saliva, acid, food, and recurring bacteria create something we’re all familiar with: plaque. This sticky substance adheres to the teeth, and over time the acids it contains will erode the tooth enamel and creates cavities.
Children and Tooth Decay – Risk Factors
Every human being’s mouth, from infant to senior citizen, produces bacteria, so the potential for tooth decay is always present. On the positive side, brushing and flossing significantly reduce the chances of a cavity forming. On the negative side, there are several risk factors that can make a child’s teeth more vulnerable to decay. These risks include:
- A diet that’s high in sugars and starches
- Poor oral hygiene
- Water supply containing minimal/no fluoride
- Higher-than-average levels of acidic bacteria, increasing the chances of tooth decay
- Lower-than-average saliva flow, compromising the mouth’s ability to clean itself
Symptoms Of Children’s Tooth Decay
In most cases, the first sign of decay comes in the form of white spots (signifying that enamel breakdown has begun) on the affected teeth. These white spots transition to a light brown color, which is signals that a cavity is forming. As the cavity moves deeper into the tooth, its color changes from light brown to dark brown, and ultimately to black.
Not all cavities come with noticeable symptoms – in fact, it’s not uncommon for a child to be unaware of a cavity until they visit our local dentist’s office. When symptoms do manifest, it’s usually in the form of pain around the affected tooth, along with sensitivity to hot/cold consumables.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Tooth decay in young children is diagnosed via dental x-rays, a full oral exam, and/or your child’s dental history. Treatment varies based on the child’s age, symptoms, and overall health, but the majority of cases are treated by removing the decay and replacing it with a filling. The two most common types are “direct restorations”, in which a filling is placed directly into the cavity, and “indirect restorations’, which combine a filling with an additional layer of protection such as a veneer or a crown.
Prioritizing Children’s Oral Health
The Smile On Dental team is an established nearby children’s dentist offering decades of collective experience caring for children’s teeth. Our comprehensive approach covers all aspects of prevention and treatment, with the goal of keeping your child’s teeth cavity-free.