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Dental Caries In School Aged Children


What are dental caries?

Dental caries are also called cavities. Cavities are caused by bacteria. The bacteria mix with carbohydrates (sugar) 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
  • 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 and treated?

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. Your child may need any of the following to treat dental caries:

  • 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.

What can I do to help prevent dental caries?

  • Bring your child to the dentist 2 times each year. 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.
  • Teach your child to brush and floss his or her teeth. At 7 or 8 years, your child should start caring for his or her own teeth. You may need to help your child brush and floss until he or she can do it properly. Ages 8 to 12 are a good time for your child to practice a healthy tooth care routine. He or she will continue the routine as an adult.
    • Use a small amount of fluoride toothpaste.
    • Brush for 2 minutes, 2 times each day. It may help to play a song that is at least 2 minutes long while your child brushes. You should only need to do this until your child is used to the time.
    • Have your child spit the toothpaste out after brushing. He or she does not need to rinse with water. The small amount of toothpaste that stays in your child's mouth can help prevent cavities.
    • Your child will also need to floss 1 time each day.
  • 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.
  • Limit fruit juice as directed. Fruit juice is high in sugar. Offer fruit juice with meals, or not at all. Do not give your child fruit juice in a cup he or she can carry around during the day. Limit fruit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day.

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 or dentist?

  • 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.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.