Signs of a Cavity in Kids

Unfortunately, it is very normal for children to get cavities. This makes sense because children have bacteria in their mouths, tend to have diets that are higher in starches and sugars, produce less saliva than adults and aren’t as good at brushing. It may seem pointless to be concerned about your children getting cavities in teeth that will fall out, but primary teeth set the foundation for a child’s future oral health. It is important for the primary teeth to remain healthy because they hold space and guide the adult teeth in growing in correctly.

As a parent, it is important to keep up with your child’s oral health to identify signs of cavities as well as prevent them in their primary teeth. It is difficult to figure out if a child has a cavity without bringing them to the dentist, but it is critical to act immediately if you do identify cavity symptoms at home. Keep reading to learn all about signs of a cavity in kids as well as preventative measures and treatment options.

What causes cavities in children?

Cavities happen when a tooth starts to decay and forms tiny holes in the enamel. Tooth decay is a result of sugar and carbohydrate remnants on a tooth turning into plaque. The bacteria in the mouth feed off of the plaque-forming acids that eat away at the enamel. As the acids deteriorate the enamel, the tiny holes leftover are cavities. Cavities are permanent damage to a tooth that can be treated with a filling to prevent further damage. If cavities are left untreated, the acids will continue traveling deeper into the tooth that can form dangerous infections that need treatment with a root canal or extraction.

How do you prevent cavities in children?

Although cavities in children are common, they are also preventable. There are many factors that go into the making of a cavity, so as parents it is important to be diligent with your child’s oral health since they are unable to. Before babies even get their first tooth it is advised that their gums are wiped down after drinking milk to remove starches and sugars. A child’s teeth should be brushed twice a day once they get their first tooth and flossed once a day by the age of two.

Another key to cavity prevention is taking your child to the dentist regularly once they get their first tooth or by their first birthday. It seems unnecessary to many parents, but taking your child in for dental checkups will allow the dentist to catch and address any oral health issues early on. When the time comes, ask your dentist if fluoride treatments are right for your child. Fluoride is a great way to replace minerals in decaying teeth and limit the production of dangerous acids.

It is critical for parents to be aware of their child’s sugar intake because the bacteria in the mouth convert sugar into acid. The issue with tooth decay and sugars is how often your child is consuming sugar, instead of how much. Many children drink a bottle of milk or juice throughout the night meaning the sugars will be sitting on their teeth the entire night. The teeth’s extended exposure to sugars during the night is one of the main causes of decay in children; try switching to water at night. Likewise, it is critical that your child is not consistently consuming sugary snacks throughout the entire day and has a balanced diet.

The best way to prevent cavities is by taking care of your child’s teeth while they are little and getting them into the dentist twice a year. This will turn into a habit and help your child make their oral health a priority throughout their entire life.

What are symptoms of cavities in children?

As a parent, it can be hard to tell if your child is having oral health issues because children are not great at articulating their needs. Going to the dentist twice a year is a great way to make sure your child is cavity-free but sometimes it is necessary to take your child to the dentist in between checkups. Since adults are in charge of a child’s oral health, they should regularly inspect the inside of their child’s mouth. When examining your child’s mouth, you should be looking for these cavity indicators:

Discolored spots

White spots on a child’s tooth indicate tooth decay that could turn into a cavity. Light brown spots indicate an active cavity in the tooth and these spots will get darker as the cavity gets worse.


If your child complains of pain when drinking something hot or cold, they should get checked out by their dentist. This pain is usually described as a quick, sharp pain, or pressure in a certain tooth.


This pain could be in the area around the tooth, including the gums, or even a throbbing pain somewhere in the mouth. Many children might not know how to effectively express how their teeth hurt, but regardless, tooth pain means a dentist appointment needs to be scheduled.

What are cavity treatments for kids?

Dentists often treat cavities in children the same way they would treat cavities in adults. Although primary teeth are not permanent, it is important to keep them healthy until the adult teeth grow in. If a child has a cavity, the dentist will use a drill to remove the tooth decay then preserve the tooth with a filling or crown.

The most popular options for filling and crown materials are metal or white composite. Metal crowns are the quickest solution and most cost-effective, especially when the primary teeth fall out or are removed. White composite fillings are more expensive, take longer to place, but are nearly invisible because they are tooth-colored. Regardless of which material you choose, getting your child’s cavities filled will help prevent pain, further damage and a way to ensure their adult teeth grow in correctly.

Concerned about your child having a cavity? Contact Cavanaugh Dental today to set up an appointment for them.

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