Cavities or tooth decay are basically the breakdown or destruction of the tooth enamel. Kids are more prone to the risk of cavities due to their bad diet and poor oral hygiene. When tooth starts to decay, it can gradually erode the enamel – the hard-outer surface of the tooth. Tiny holes get created in the process which can grow bigger of treatment for cavities is not sought.
In children or adults, tooth decay is generally caused by bacteria and some factors are also responsible for that. Those who eat sugary foods and items or foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are more likely to have cavities than the rest. Such foods when left in the mouth come in contact with the bacteria and acid forms.
The foods, bacteria, acid and saliva, all combine in the mouth and lead to plaque formation – the white sticky substance that is responsible for a variety of dental health risks. The plaque and the acid can then gradually eat away at the enamel to cause cavities.
Factors that increase the risk for tooth decay
Since bacteria is present in the mouth of everyone of us, we all are at risk for tooth decay. However, some children are more prone than others as this has to do with the diet and oral hygiene.
Here are some of factors that can increase the risk for tooth decay –
- The presence of high levels of bacteria in the mouth that can increase the chances of cavities
- Kids having a diet high in sugars and starches are more likely to have cavities than others
- Poor oral hygiene means the bacteria and plaque don’t get washed away to increase the likelihood of cavities
- The flow of saliva getting negatively affected as less the saliva more chances of plaque and bacteria residing in the mouth
- Using the water supply with limited or no fluoride content can also increase the chances of cavities
Symptoms of tooth decay in a child
Cavities are characterized by decay and the decay tends to vary from child to child. In general, symptoms of tooth decay are quite common and easy to spot for dentist.
Here are major symptoms of tooth decay in a child –
- The emergence of white spots on the teeth in the areas affected
- The white spots may be pronounced or less pronounced in early stages of a tooth decay depending on the damage
- An experience of early sensitivity in the teeth due to breaking down of the enamel
- An early cavity will be visible on the tooth which will have a light brown colour or shade
- The cavity will turn into a darker shade of black or brown when it becomes deeper over time
- The child may feel pain in the affected area around the tooth
- A moderate to mild sensitivity to foods that are hot, cold or sweet
- Cavities however don’t always come with symptoms and in some cases, the child may not know until the dentist find it
Tooth decay diagnosis and treatment in a child
Tooth decay is entirely preventable with timely diagnosis and treatment. If your child visits the dentist regularly, it can help bring down the risk of tooth decay considerably.
Here is how tooth decay diagnosis and treatment are done in a child –
- The diagnosis of tooth decay in child is done based on analysing the dental history of the child
- The dentist will do a thorough examination of the child’s mouth and then do dental x-rays to know the presence of cavities
- After diagnosis, the dentist will go ahead with the treatment which will depend on the age, symptoms and health of the child
- The treatment will also depend on the severity of the problem
- In most cases, the dentist will use a filling to treat dental cavities where the decayed part is first removed and then replaced with a right filling material
- Fillings are also called restorations and they can be of two types, direction and indirect restorations
- With direct restorations, you child will need a single visit where the dentist will place a filling directly into the damaged hole
- The fillings used in direct restorations may be made of resin, silver, acrylic acid or glass powders and they mostly resemble the tooth colour
- Indirect restorations are a bit complicated and mostly require two or more visits to the dentists
- Some of procedures the dentist may use with indirect restorations include crowns, bridges, inlays, veneers and on-lays
- The fillings with indirect restorations may be made of ceramics, composites, gold, metal alloys as they may also look like natural tooth
Prevention of tooth decay in a child
Tooth decay is preventable, and parents can take some precautions to keep their children out of this risk. The prevention steps are easy, and anyone can follow without any hassles-
Here are some of steps to prevent tooth decay in a child –
- Start brushing the teeth of your child as early as the first one emerges
- Brush the teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste, and also clean the tongue and gums daily
- Use only a small amount of paste for kids below 3 years of age and those above, you can use a pea-sized amount
- Do floss the teeth of your child from the age of two
- Limit the intake of food and items high in sugar such as candies, chocolates, cake, chips etc.
- Never share eating utensils with the child else it can transfer the bacteria from your mouth to the child
- You can put water in the bottle of the child when he/she goes to the bed taking the bottle
- Don’t let the child sleep with a bottle having juice milk or any containing sugar else it can lead to tooth decay
- In case fluoride water is not available, consult the dentist about the use of a fluoride supplement
- You can ask the dentist about the use of dental sealants and fluoride varnish to put on teeth for minimizing the risk of cavities
- Seek a dentist appointment for your child regularly