Parents ask us questions about cavities all the time. How do I know if my child has a cavity? How do you see them? How do you fix cavities in children? How do I explain cavities to my child? And the list goes on. 

Cavities are one of the most common dental problems and are caused by bacteria creating a hole in a tooth that then can lead to larger and more severe issues.

Dr. Kimberly has a simple way of explaining to kids what cavities are and helps make it clear how important it is to stay on top of regular brushing, flossing, and 6-month visits for your kiddos. Little bugs (bacteria) move in to eat the sugar and food left behind from food and drinks, and if they hang around long enough, they start to eat your child’s tooth as well. Brushing and flossing after every meal will help remove any leftover food particles, sugar, and bacteria so there is nothing for these little bugs to snack on.

When your child comes for his or her 6 month visit, Dr. Kimberly will use a high pressure spray to wash off any bugs that brushing and flossing may have missed.

How do I know if my child has a cavity?

Some cavities are visible to the naked eye. Small cavities can appear as dark spots on the tooth and it’s common for them to form in the grooves and surfaces of the teeth because this is where bacteria can gather and grow. Larger ones may grow to ‘take over’ the whole tooth making the entire tooth dark.

Depending on where the cavity is located, we may only be able to see it when we take an x-ray of your child’s teeth. X-rays help us locate where and how large a cavity is. If the cavity is in between two teeth, it may not be visible otherwise.

little boy eating ice pop

How do you fix a cavity in children?

Dr. Kimberly’s approach to fixing your child’s cavity depends on the size and location of the cavity, and the age of your child. For smaller cavities that are easily accessible, she numbs the area, cleans the cavity out and then uses what we call “tooth paint” or a white filling material to cover the hole, making the tooth look good as new!

If it’s a bigger cavity, she’ll add a crown. This is necessary when the cavity has eaten away a significant area of the tooth. All of the tooth decay will be removed and the tooth will be filed down so that a cap, or crown, can be bonded over top.

If larger cavities have weakened the tooth structure so much that the tooth cannot be saved, it will need to be removed. Depending on the age of your child and the location of the tooth, Dr. Kimberly may need to add a space maintainer so the adult teeth have room to come in without crowding. If it’s a front tooth, this may not be necessary. For a side or back tooth, it’s important to keep space open for permanent teeth to come in so future orthodontic problems can be avoided.

Smiling girl in a dental clinic for children. Child with a toothy smile during inspection of oral cavity by a dentist

Why is my child getting cavities?

We hear it all the time. You make your child brush their teeth every day but they still get cavities! Sometimes certain kids are more susceptible to forming cavities than others, but there are some things you can do to reduce the chance of having to deal with cavities and fillings.

Be mindful of what your kids are eating and when. It’s not just the dessert after dinner to be aware of. What are they snacking on or sipping throughout the day? Any sugar (or carbs that turn into sugars) that have the chance to sit around in the mouth can create the perfect environment for cavity-forming bacteria.

Limit the sweet drinks, even juice, throughout the day and make sure your kids are brushing and flossing after each meal, or at least twice a day. Depending on how old they are, you may need to brush for them or brush after them to make sure they’ve cleared all of the white fuzzies from every surface. Brush the inside, outside, and tops of every tooth, and do floss. Flossing is especially important in baby teeth because they are so close together and it’s easy for food and germs to get caught between them.

For little ones, it’s good to let them brush their teeth as practice and then for you to brush behind them. If your older kiddos have a good handle on brushing and flossing, check their teeth every few days and maybe go back through for a more thorough job.

The key for kids is to not rush. Remind your child to take their time when brushing so they remove all the sugar bugs.

Don’t forget to bring your kiddos to see Dr. Kimberly every six months. Left untreated cavities can grow causing discomfort, infection, and weaker teeth. Routine cleanings can keep your child’s teeth happy and healthy, and give us the chance to catch cavities before they cause bigger issues.

Give us a call today to set up your next appointment.