Childhood cavities are a very large issue with regards to oral health all over the world. The main causes of childhood cavities are basically the same as the causes of adult cavities, a sugary diet and poor dental hygiene. A cavity is decay caused by plaque that forms on teeth, and can lead to many even bigger issues like periodontitis. The best way to avoid the pain and problems associated with cavities is to maintain a regular routine of brushing and flossing, eating a good and balanced diet, and keeping regular visits to the dentist.

What causes cavities?

Cavities are caused by sugars and carbohydrates collecting on your teeth after eating, causing a sticky film known as plaque which bonds to the tooth enamel. Bacteria in the plaque ingests sugar particles and emits acids which attack the tooth enamel and makes it vulnerable to decay. Eventually, small holes are formed in the enamel and erosion of the inner parts of the tooth begins.

Are childhood cavities obvious?

One of the main problems with cavities is they are rarely noticed until they are large enough to cause pain. They are rarely visible, and if they are in between teeth they are not noticeable at all.

Some of the major symptoms of childhood cavities include:

  • Sensitivity to cold or warm foods
  • Nighttime waking and crying
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to spicy foods
  • Toothache

If a child is experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to visit the pediatric dentist.

How can I prevent cavities?

Make sure you brush and floss regularly, and make sure you visit the dentist for a checkup and cleaning at least twice per year. Here are some helpful guidelines for cavity prevention:

  1. Pay attention to diet – Do not drink soda or eat too many sugary foods. Drink as much water as possible and eat healthy, green vegetables and fruits.
  2. Stop snacking – Try to discourage snacking in between meals and always brush the teeth after you eat. Snacking is generally involving sugary foods, so try and avoid it all together.
  3. Do not use sippy cups – It is commonly believed that sippy cups cause childhood tooth decay if used beyond 12 months of age. The continual flow of sugary liquids cause teeth to be continually exposed, causing decay.
  4. Avoid sticky foods – Sticky foods form plaque even quicker than regular foods…try to avoid them all together.
  5. Rinse the pacifier – Do not transfer bacteria from one mouth to another. Always rinse a pacifier before putting it into a baby’s mouth.
  6. Drinks at bedtime – Do not drink anything but water before bedtime, as the sugars in the drink will sit on teeth all night.
  7. Don’t sweeten a pacifier – Do not use sweeteners on a pacifier under any circumstances. It is rewarding bad behaviors with sweets and causing associations that sweets are good.
  8. Brush and floss – Brush and floss your child’s teeth every day, twice per day until they are seven years old. At that point train your child in the proper technique to do it themselves.
  9. Fluoride -Ask your dentist about fluoride treatments. If used correctly they are a great benefit but too much or too little can have bad effects.
  10. See a dentist – Always make sure to keep dentist appointments, and make sure that your child does not see going to the dentist as a negative thing. Make it a positive experience so that they will continue to go even into adulthood.

If you have questions or concerns about cavity prevention, please contact your pediatric dentist.