Cavities in Children

It is often assumed by parents that the reason behind their kids having cavities is that theyare careless in flossing and brushing their teeth, which is true to an extent. Only few people,however, acknowledge the fact that tooth decay, a disease referred to as dental carries, is due to germs that are contagious within the family unit and may stay for a long period of time, say lifetime. This is very common in children of young age, even more common than chronic illnesses like diabetes or asthma.

How Do Cavities Form?

Decaying of tooth starts with a group of germs known as mutans streptococcus. According to Burton Edelstein, D.D.S. parent advisor and Children Dental Health Project’s founding director, the bacteria is capable of feeding on sugar and producing acid that eats away the teeth architecture by causing calcium depletion. What’s worse, it also forms plaque which is a yellowish film accumulated on teeth and is loaded with enamel eroding acid. The tooth surface collapses when any specific area where there’s no calcium becomes big. This is the cavity formation.

Causes of Cavities in Children

The major cause that contributes to cavity formation is improper brushing and flossing of teeth to remove the accumulated plaque. However, other causes may include:

1.    Food

Foods that stick to the teeth or havea tendency to deposit on the tooth surface and edges can lead to tooth decay. Starchy foods that are most cooked and all sugars are a major contributor of plaque formation, along with bread, dry cereal, hard candy, raisins, honey and milk.

2.    Bacteria

Babies naturally don’t have any harmful bacteria in their mouths, but according to studies, mothers are more responsible than fathers for getting their children infected even before they reach the age of 2. How? It is simply by transferring their saliva to the mouths of children, as mothers eat repeatedly from the same spoon that the baby uses. Or in other cases, they let their babies brush from their own toothbrushes. And if the mother has had frequent cavities, do not even wonder how the babies get them, formost probably she has passed on the germs. Once the colonies of mutans are formed within the child’s mouth, he will be more likely to get cavities in his permanent as well as baby teeth.  This may result in toothache, difficulty in eating and other symptoms.

3.    Excessive Fluoride

Fluoride is present in the public water supplied to you, which happens to be beneficial to your teeth and assists in preventing plaque formation and protecting tooth enamel. However, excessive fluoride can be bad for your oral health and may result in fluorosis, a condition characterized by teeth with white spots. So children below the age of 2or 3 should not use a toothpaste containing fluoride, as babies tend to swallow it rather than spitting out.

Symptoms of Cavities in Children

While formation of larger cavities can be very painful, small and tiny cavitiesoften go neglected as they aren’t even felt. At times, cavities are formed in between two teeth, so their detection via naked eye becomes trickier. Some important notable symptoms include:

  • High sensitivity to warm and cool foods
  • Crying and waking at night time
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity to food that’s spicy
  • Toothache

If the above listed symptoms are being experienced by the child, consult the paediatric dentist immediately. With the trained eyes of the dentist and the dental X-rays, cavities will be easily spotted and the matter can be taken control of. A delay will worsen the condition and may put the tooth in jeopardy.

Prevention of Cavities in Children

1.    Maintain Good Oral Health

Age Group

How to Maintain Good Oral Health


Make your habit to clean the baby’s gums, even before he grows his first tooth. Wipe the gums using a damp cloth that is washed, after each feed. Begin brushing when your baby grows his first tooth, rub the baby toothbrush along the gum line and on the surface in a back and forth motion. When using a tooth paste, make sure it’s free from fluoride.


You must brush the teeth of your child before bed and after breakfast ideally for 60 seconds. This can be done by leaning his head onto your lap and placing the toothbrush at an angle of 45 degree to the teeth. A small amount of fluoride toothpaste may be used when the baby reaches the age of 2 or 3, and flossing may be done when two of his teeth come in touch to each other.


Be sure to brush your teeth when your child is doing his, and provide him with positive feedback. According to studies, both powered and manual toothbrushes are equally effective. But you can let your child use the powered one for easy brushing.

School-Age Kids

At the age of 7, kids are generally ready to do brushing and flossing on their own. The brushing must now be for 2 minutes. Look out for any plaque or food accumulated along the gum line, to know if your kid is brushing properly. You may let him chew gum containing xylitol.

2.    Teach Children to Drink from Cups

Make sure your child starts drinking from a regular cup, especially if he’s between the ages of 12-15 months. It minimizes the chances of liquid accumulation around the teeth. And the plus side is that it cannot be taken to bed.

3.    Limit Intake of Sweet Food and Juices

  • Don’t allow your child to eat sticky sweet foods, such as cookies, gummies, fruit roll-ups, or candy.  Chips and crackers also contain sugar, and it’s no surprise that they are also harmful for your child if he consumes them too much;they should be consumed only at mealtimes. You should tell your children to clear off the food from the teeth while eating.
  • Juices must only be served at the mealtimes and cut off the amount to 4-6 ounces per day. Babies below the age of 6 months are not recommended to consume juices.
  • While tucking your child to bed, make sure there’s no food or bottle with him. Not only his teeth can get exposed to sugar, but it may increase the risk of choking and ear infection.

4.    Avoid Infection

If you have had dental issues, do not share toothbrushes or utensils with your toddler or baby. Don’t even permit him sticking his finger within your mouth. You may reduce the mutans concentration in your oral cavity with the help of antibacterial mouthwashes on a dentist’s prescription. This can eventually decrease the risk of transmission of germs to your baby. According to research findings, chewing a gum four times a day (sugarless and containing xylitol) may significantly reduce levels ofbacteria in the mom’s mouth.

Treatment for Cavities in Children

In a number of cases, treatment is done by removing the caries and filling the cavity to ensure optimal dental health. The filling of cavity is done by composite material, dental amalgam, gold or porcelain for the restoration of the original size and shape of tooth. It is highly recommended to see a paediatric dentist at intervals to ensure optimal oral and physical health.

For additional help with children’s dental care, you can watch this video to learn more: