Cavities in Kids: Causes, Prevention, and Treatments

admin May 4, 2022Category: DENTAL CARE
Cavities in Kid

Cavities or tooth decay is one of the most common dental problems of toddlers and children. A cavity in baby teeth is a permanently damaged area of the tooth surface due to toxins produced by the bacteria, thus eroding the tooth surfaces. These bacteria multiply due to food particles that accumulate because of improper mouth cleaning.

Cavities in kids can develop in their primary or baby teeth, but the general mindset that “the milk teeth will be replaced with the permanent ones, so why to worry?” is WRONG. Leaving them untreated can result in serious complications in the milk teeth and surrounding tissues and the successive permanent teeth later.

Here’s what you must know as a parent about cavities in your kids, including their symptoms, causes, treatment options, and prevention tips.

Feel free to skip ahead if one topic catches your eye:

  1. Causes of Cavities in Kids
  2. Symptoms of Cavities in Kids
  3. When to take your child to a dentist?
  4. How are cavities in kids treated?
  5. FAQs


Causes of Cavities in Kids

Cavities occur when an accumulated dental plaque erodes the tooth enamel and causes a hole in the tooth surface. Dental plaque forms as a sticky substance covering the teeth due to the collection of bacteria combined with acids, food particles, and saliva. A few situations predispose a child to the development of cavities:

  • Increased sugary foods and bottle feeding: Babies tend to go to bed while sipping milk or sip sweetened drinks throughout the day, creating an environment for bacteria to develop. Similarly, kids like to have sugary foods like candies, cake, juices, jams, etc.
  • Exposure to bacteria through other sources: Adults tend to taste or sip food /drink before serving the child from the same cup or spoon, transmitting bacteria through their mouths.
  • Poor dental and oral hygiene: Babies’ mouths or toddlers’ teeth are left uncleaned or improperly cleaned, leading to cavities.
  • Carefree attitude with the milk teeth: Sometimes, parents become carefree with milk teeth, thinking the permanent ones will replace them. This attitude can create serious issues with the milk teeth and the permanent ones.
  • Tooth structure and susceptibility: Sometimes, despite having good oral hygiene, some children are more prone to getting cavities due to the structure of their teeth or genetic predisposition.
  •  Not getting enough fluoride: If the tap water contains less fluoride and fluoridated toothpaste is not used, the child may be susceptible to cavities.
  •  Less water intake leading to dry mouth: Less or no water intake for long hours or some medical conditions where saliva production becomes less may result in cavities.

    Symptoms of Cavities in Kids

Usually, in the initial stages of cavity development, the signs and symptoms are hardly noticeable, but as the development continues, some of them may be:

  • White spots or lines on the tooth.
  • Dark spots, pits, or holes on teeth.
  • Softening of tooth structure.
  •  Sensitivity to cold, hot, and sweet foods.
  • Pain on biting or eating.
  • Crying, irritability, and fussiness.
  • Avoidance of food.
  • Mouth or face swelling
  • Lethargy

The symptoms of tooth decay and cavities vary with every child. Most of the time, children don’t know they have one until their dentist finds it. Therefore, regular dental visits are the only option to detect cavities at an early stage.

Cavities in Kid

When to take the child to a dentist?

Ideally, you should take your child for regular dental check-ups every 6 months since the first tooth erupts. This will help to detect any anticipated or early-stage dental problems so that they can be managed on time. Also, if you suspect a cavity through the above signs and symptoms, do not wait and see a dentist.

Immediately seek your dentist’s help if there exists:

  • Excruciating pain.
  • Mouth swelling (gums or jaw).
  • Fever
  • Foul taste in the mouth.

These may indicate serious dental and oral complications that need urgent attention.

How are cavities in children treated?

The treatment of cavities in children varies according to the type of teeth (Milk or permanent) and the extent of the cavity development. The treatment options are:

  • Fluoride gel or varnish: When cavities have just started to form, appearing as white lines or spots due to loss of tooth minerals (demineralization), they can be reversed by a fluoride treatment (remineralization).
  • Tooth fillings: Once cavities are formed, they cannot be revered, and they may need fillings, which are:
    • Amalgam fillings: Metallic coloured fillings are strong, durable, and less expensive.
    • Tooth-colored fillings: They give a natural tooth-colored look, e.g., composite or glass ionomer. They are expensive and less durable as compared to amalgam.
  • Pulpotomy and pulpectomy for milk teeth: When cavities in baby teeth have reached the pulp tissues then, either Pulpotomy is done, where the dentist will remove the pulp tissues only from the tooth crown (Pulp chamber), but if cavities have extended into the root canals, pulpectomy is performed, where the pulp tissue is removed from the root canals as well.
  • Root canal treatment for permanent teeth: A root canal treatment is done when the cavities have extended in the pulp tissue of permanent teeth. The pulp is removed from the pulp chamber, and the root canals are cleaned, disinfected, and filled.
  • Dental crowns: They are needed after Pulpotomy, pulpectomy, and root canal treatment to provide strength to the treated teeth, as they become brittle after pulp removal.
  • Tooth extraction: It is the last option when the tooth is so severely damaged that any other treatment modality cannot restore it.


How can tooth cavities in kids be prevented?

A few tips include:

  • Maintain good oral hygiene: Clean your baby’s mouth with a moist clean cloth and use a small-sized soft brush for toddlers and children with a tiny amount of fluoridated toothpaste and floss daily. Also, never let your baby sleep without cleaning their mouth after feeding.
  • Limit sugary foods: encourage your child to eat healthy foods rich in proteins and calcium, limit sugary food and drinks, and always rinse after eating sweets.
  • Regular dental visits: See your dentist regularly for early detection and prompt treatment of cavities.Can the cavities in children be hereditary?

Yes, evidence-based studies show an associated hereditary element in the development of cavities. Therefore, despite good oral hygiene, some children are more prone to cavities.


SmileXperts is accredited as the best dental clinic in Gurgaon, homed by a team of the most qualified and experienced dentists in Delhi NCR. Here, the practice is focused on pain-free dental service and optimal patient care. SmileXperts is equipped with the latest technology and advanced treatment care solutions to ensure you the best and outstanding results at an affordable cost.