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Dental Cavities in School Aged Children

AMBULATORY CARE:

Dental cavities

, also called caries, are holes in teeth 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.

Tooth Decay

Common signs and symptoms:

Your child may not have any symptoms if cavities have just started to form. When cavities reach deeper parts of your child's tooth, he or she may have pain. Your child may also have any of the following:

  • Pain when your child chews or eats hot or cold foods
  • Chalky white, yellow, or brown tooth
  • Gum swelling

Seek care immediately if:

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

Call your child's dentist if:

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

Treatment for dental cavities

may include any of the following:

  • A fluoride treatment may be given during dental visits. Your child may use products with fluoride at home. Your child's dentist will tell you what kind of fluoride your child needs 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.
  • A root canal may be needed if the tooth is infected or the decay is severe.

Prevent dental cavities:

  • Help your child care for his or her teeth until he or she can do it properly. Your child should start caring for his or her own teeth at age 7 or 8.
    • 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.
    Teach Children to Brush and Floss

  • Bring your child to the dentist 2 times each year. A dentist can find and treat problems early. This may help prevent dental cavities. The dentist can give your child a fluoride treatment to help prevent cavities.
  • Give your child healthy foods and drinks. 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, soda, and fruit juice.

Follow up with your child's dentist as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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

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