Preventing Cavities in Childhood
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Preventing Cavities in Childhood

A dental cavity, or “caries,” is an area of decayed tooth structure that is permanently damaged. Dental cavities are considered one of the most common conditions that affect children. Cavities can range from mild (only existing in the enamel) to severe (entering through the nerve canal.) Treatment for the cavity will largely depend on the location and size. 

Bacteria cause cavities to build up on tooth surfaces, called plaque. Saliva combines with the bacteria, producing acids, which damage tooth structure over time. Therefore, cavities are more likely to form in the presence of bacteria when teeth aren’t being cleaned adequately.  

Baby teeth are susceptible to cavities just like adult teeth, sometimes even more so because the enamel of baby teeth is thinner and more delicate than adult teeth. Just because a child will lose their baby teeth doesn’t mean cavities on these teeth should be ignored. If left, cavities can cause pain and infection and lead to problems with the spacing and alignment of future adult teeth. 

Signs and Symptoms of Childhood Cavities

  • Pain or sensitivity 
  • Fussiness or crying 
  • A stained tooth, either brown or white 
  • Chipped tooth 
  • Selective with eating 
  • Mouth swelling 

Prevention of Childhood Cavities

  • Start brushing at the first onset of baby teeth (typically 5-10 months)
  • Children require help brushing until the age of 6 
  • Flossing should begin as soon as there is contact between 2 teeth 
  • Brush after nursing and consumption of milk 
  • No bottle of milk in bed at night 
  • Reduce sugary snacks 
  • Regular six month trips to the dentist 

Treatment of Childhood Cavities

If caught early, a simple and small filling can be placed to fix a cavity in a baby tooth. If diagnosed in the initial stages, sometimes a drop of high concentration fluoride administered at the dentist can harden the tooth and prevent the cavity from growing. In cases where the cavity has grown larger and entered the nerve of the tooth, either a root canal and crown will have to be placed to save the tooth, or the tooth will need to be extracted. Since baby teeth act as space holders for the adult teeth, a space maintainer will have to be placed to allow the future adult tooth enough room to erupt. When cavities are diagnosed early, treatment is simple and less expensive.

If you have any questions about preventing childhood cavities, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

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