In this article
Cavities are decayed areas on teeth that develop tiny holes. They can form on the smooth sides of teeth, in the grooves of teeth, or on the surfaces of tooth roots.
Cavities on baby teeth, known as early childhood caries (ECC), are the most common oral disease that affects children from infancy through adolescence. According to the 2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 56 percent of children between 6 and 8 years of age had cavities in their primary teeth.1
About 20 percent of children have untreated tooth decay in their baby teeth, and 21 percent of children between 6 and 11 years of age have cavities in their adult teeth.1
Tooth decay begins when bacteria that typically live in the mouth combine with carbohydrates from foods and produce acid. This combination of acid, food, and bacteria forms a sticky plaque. Over time, the acid eats away the tooth enamel, causing cavities.
Baby tooth enamel is more fragile than permanent teeth. This makes them prone to “caries attacks.” The pits and fissures (deep grooves) on primary teeth are very thin, which creates an environment for:
Certain factors increase your child’s risk of a baby tooth cavity, including:
Pediatric dentists remove plaque you cannot reach with a regular toothbrush during cleanings.
Refined carbohydrates and sugary foods can cause cavities in baby teeth. Drinking fruit juice from a sippy cup or bottle is also bad for your child's dental health. This is known as baby bottle tooth decay or bottle rot.
Brushing, flossing, and using fluoride toothpaste regularly reduce the chance of childhood cavities. Before teeth grow in, parents should routinely clean their baby’s gums to prevent the spread of cavity-causing bacteria.
Saliva helps maintain healthy tooth enamel. Reduced salivary flow, or dry mouth, can increase the likelihood of cavities or decay.
A mother can transfer cavity-causing bacteria to her baby. You should pay close attention to oral hygiene during pregnancy because it is a critical factor in preventing:
If a mother has untreated cavities, sharing utensils or kissing her baby on the lips can cause cavities in her child's teeth.
Some everyday childhood habits can increase the risk of tooth decay, such as:
Untreated cavities in baby teeth can lead to other oral health conditions, such as gum disease or tooth loss. It can even affect the developing permanent tooth.
Tooth decay in baby teeth can affect the development of permanent teeth in two ways:
Multiple cavities in baby teeth can lead to severe pain, hospitalizations, or emergency room visits. Treating multiple cavities is also more expensive and invasive and may warrant general anesthesia or sedation.
Your dentist will determine the best treatment based on your child’s age, symptoms, and overall health. In most cases, cavity treatment involves removing tooth decay and replacing it with a dental filling.
There are two main categories of fillings:
These direct restorations are completed in a single visit. They involve placing a dental filling into a prepared hole in the tooth. Common filling materials include:
These restorations are made out of the mouth. They include:
You can prevent tooth decay naturally with lifestyle changes or through preventive dental techniques, such as tooth sealants and fluoride therapy.
According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), a child’s first dental visit should occur after the first tooth appears or no later than the first birthday.
Cavity prevention tips include:
Begin brushing your child’s teeth as soon as the first grows in. You should brush their teeth, gums, and tongue twice a day. Supervise them as they begin to brush their teeth.
For children under three years old, the amount of toothpaste you use should be about the size of a grain of rice. Around age 3, you can increase that to a pea-sized drop of toothpaste.
Start flossing your child’s teeth daily around age 2. This helps to establish good oral hygiene habits.
Ensure your child eats a well-balanced diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks that can increase plaque formation.
If your child takes a bottle at bedtime, put only water in it. Formula and juice contain sugars that can lead to cavities.
Avoid activities allowing bacteria from your mouth to enter your child’s. Don’t share utensils or use your saliva to clean your child’s pacifier.
The cost of a cavity restoration depends on the type and the dentist’s location. Although, dental restorations are medically necessary.
A good insurance policy covers part or most of the procedures. The prices below reflect procedure costs without insurance:
|Amalgam (Silver) Filling||$50-$200 (per tooth)|
|Composite Filling||$90-$300 (per tooth)|
|Stainless Steel Crowns||$300-$500 (per baby tooth)|
|Sealants||$30-$75 (per tooth)|
In this article