Cavities in Kids: What Causes Them and How to Prevent Them
Nobody likes cavities — kids or parents. They can be uncomfortable or downright painful to repair, not to mention that tooth decay can affect your overall health. Fortunately, cavities are preventable if children develop the right dental hygiene habits. Learn what causes cavities, how to spot one, and how to avoid cavities in kids.
What causes cavities?
When plaque builds up on teeth, it eats away at the enamel, causing a hole. Plaque forms when food, acid, or saliva combines with bacteria in the mouth.
The main reasons kids get cavities are:
- They don’t brush and floss regularly, which allows plaque to accumulate.
- They don’t floss correctly and food particles stay stuck in between teeth.
- They don’t get dental checkups twice a year so parents aren’t aware of risk factors that lead to cavities.
- They eat too many sweet, sugary, and starchy foods like ice cream, cakes, candy, crackers, and chips.
It’s possible that getting cavities could be genetic, due to some people having softer enamel than others. But there’s not enough research to confirm this right now.
Is it my fault my kid has cavities?
Some parents feel disappointed or like a failure when they discover their children have cavities. If your child has a cavity, don’t be hard on yourself — you may not have done anything wrong.
Although instilling good dental hygiene habits in kids is a parent’s responsibility, some kids can be more susceptible to cavities than others. More importantly, cavities are easily treatable, so you shouldn’t panic that you’ve ruined your child’s teeth forever. Once your child has had a cavity, you can also take action to prevent more from appearing.
The best thing you can do now is to model and teach good eating and dental hygiene habits. When kids are young, you can take a more active role in what they eat and how they spend their time, so you can make sure their teeth are taken care of. As they get older and gain more independence, it will be up to them to realize the importance of dental hygiene and ensure they’re keeping up good habits.
How do I know if my child has a cavity?
Some kids might feel a toothache in the spot where they have a cavity. Tooth decay doesn’t always cause pain, however, so you may need to check for other signs that your child has cavities.
Some indications that your child may have a cavity include:
- Dark or white spots on teeth
- Crying or fussiness in small children
- Sensitivity to cold foods and drinks
- Swelling in the mouth
- Avoiding particular foods or eating altogether
If you notice any of these signs and suspect your kid has a cavity, you should make an appointment to see a pediatric dentist right away. The dentist can examine your child’s teeth more closely and recommend the best treatment options based on how much decay is present.
Cavity Prevention Tips
Although your pediatric dentist can recommend treatment options for cavities, the best way to deal with them is to prevent them from appearing at all. Keep these cavity prevention tips in mind if you want to stop your child’s teeth from decaying.
Make a dental routine
Getting kids into a good dental routine when they’re young will make them more likely to keep those behaviors as they get older. Kids should brush their teeth at least twice a day, floss once per day, and rinse their mouths with water after each meal or snack.
Kids six and under will need help with proper brushing, and you may have to do it for them until they’ve mastered it themselves. Kids also tend to have a hard time with flossing.
Make your daily dental routine fun so your kid gets excited for it. Sing a song, play music, have a quick “dental dance party” right after — liven it up so your child looks forward to brushing and flossing their teeth and it doesn’t feel like a chore.
Discourage food and drink sharing
When kids share food and drinks with each other, it increases the chances of spreading bacteria. You never know what kinds of dangerous bacteria are lurking inside other kids’ mouths, so tell your children how important it is to avoid sharing food and beverages with their friends.
Bacteria can even spread between family members who share food, so don’t let siblings share with each other either. Always make sure there are enough snacks and drinks for everybody to have their own.
See the family dentist often
You should start taking your child to a pediatric dentist after their first baby tooth emerges and then twice a year from then on. Going every six months will help catch any problems your children’s teeth might have.
Avoid sugary and starchy foods
Sweets and starchy foods increase plaque in the mouth. The plaque then builds up and eats away at tooth enamel and eventually leads to cavities. Try to replace sweets and starchy foods in your kid’s diet with healthier options.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Incorporating water-dense fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet can help stave off cavities — and is good for their overall health too. Try low-sugar fruits like blackberries and raspberries, as well as frozen bananas, dried fruits with no added sugar, carrots and dip, or yogurt as snacks.
Dental sealants cover any cracks and spaces between teeth where bacteria can build up. Your child might be a good candidate for sealants, but they’re not for everyone. Ask your pediatric dentist about sealants to see if they would be beneficial to your child.
Drink lots of water
Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, as it has numerous health benefits. It also helps keep cavities at bay. Drinking water regularly throughout the day flushes bacteria from the mouth, preventing plaque buildup on teeth. For kids, drinking water with fluoride added can also provide a cavity-fighting boost.
Keep cavities away
Don’t let tooth decay ruin your child’s smile. Help them learn the importance of good dental hygiene so they avoid getting cavities and have healthy teeth for life!
At Ashburn Children’s Dentistry, we believe a holistic approach to pediatric dental care is essential. We’ll develop treatment plans for your child’s cavities that will not only improve dental health but also contribute to overall health outcomes. Call our office today to set up your child’s first appointment.