Skip to Content

Dental Caries In Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What are dental caries?

Dental caries are also called cavities. Cavities are caused by bacteria. The bacteria mix with carbohydrates from foods and create acids. The acids break down areas of enamel, which covers the outside of a tooth. This creates a small hole in the tooth called a cavity.

What increases my child's risk for dental caries?

  • Not cleaning the teeth well after eating or drinking foods high in sugar, such as raisins, cookies, candy, juice, or soda
  • Being put to bed with a bottle
  • Poor tooth care
  • Being born early or weighing less than normal at birth
  • White or brown areas on his or her teeth
  • Not going to the dentist every 6 months

What are the symptoms of dental caries?

Your child may not have any symptoms if the dental caries have just started to form. When the dental caries reach deeper parts of your child's tooth, he or she may have pain. The pain may get worse when your child chews or eats hot or cold foods.

How are dental caries diagnosed?

Your child's dentist will look at his or her teeth and check for signs of dental caries. Your child's dentist may use x-rays to find dental caries.

How are dental caries treated?

  • Fluoride treatments may be given to prevent more decay. Your child may be given fluoride treatments during dental visits, or he or she may use products with fluoride at home. Fluoride can be found in the form of a mouth rinse or gel. Your child's dentist will tell you what kind of fluoride to buy and how to use it.
  • A filling may be placed in your child's tooth after the decayed portion is removed. The filling may help to protect your child's tooth from more decay.

How can I help prevent dental caries?

  • Help your child brush his or her teeth.
    • A child younger than 3 years needs to have his or her teeth brushed twice a day. Brush your child's teeth with a children's toothbrush and water. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that you brush his or her teeth with a small smear of toothpaste with fluoride. Make sure your child spits all of the toothpaste out. Before your child's teeth come in, clean his or her gums and mouth with a soft cloth or infant toothbrush once a day.
    • A child older than 3 years needs to have his or her teeth brushed with fluoride toothpaste twice a day. You should also floss your child's teeth once a day. Help your child brush his or her teeth for at least 2 minutes. For children between 3 and 5 years of age, apply a pea-sized amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush. Make sure your child spits all of the toothpaste out. He or she does not need to rinse his or her mouth with water. The small amount of toothpaste that stays in your child's mouth can help prevent cavities.
  • Bring your child to the dentist twice a year. Your child should start seeing a dentist at 1 year of age. A dentist can find and treat problems early. This may help prevent dental caries. The dentist can give your child a fluoride treatment to help prevent cavities.
  • Do not put your child to bed or nap time with a bottle. Breast milk, formula, and juice contain sugars. If your child falls asleep with a bottle, these liquids can sit in his or her mouth and cause cavities. Instead, hold your child while you feed him or her and then put him or her down to sleep.
  • Provide healthy foods and drinks to your child. Choose foods and drinks that are low in sugar. Read food labels to help you choose foods that are low in sugar. Limit candy, cookies, and soda. Do not dip a child's pacifier in sugar, syrup, or any other sweetened liquid.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has severe pain.
  • Your child has swelling in his or her jaw or cheek.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child's tooth pain gets worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Hide