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Every child (and adult) loves to declare “no cavities!” after a dental checkup. It can be a moment of pride and relief for both child and parent. Our pediatric dental team is always excited to see healthy teeth in our young patients!

However, we understand that cavities happen – they are one of the most common dental problems for toddlers and children. What happens if a child has a cavity and what should be done next? Let’s discuss!

What Does a Cavity Look Like?

You can get a cavity in any tooth, including baby teeth. Seeing a cavity in your child’s mouth can be a bit tricky.

Cavities form during the process of tooth decay. At the beginning, you may notice a little white spot around the tooth. This is a sign of plaque buildup, a sticky residue left on the teeth. A diet containing an excessive amount of sugar, starches, and/or not brushing thoroughly can contribute to this process of tooth decay.

Over time, a dark spot on the tooth may appear (typically brown, black, or grey in color) and holes or craters form in the teeth. Other signs of a cavity in a toddler or child include:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Difficulty chewing or drinking, especially hot or cold items
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Persistent bad breath

The best way to determine if your child has a cavity is during a regular dental check-up. Along with a careful examination of your child’s teeth from a Little Smiles dentist, x-rays are taken to do a more thorough check between the teeth where a visual examination cannot occur. Cavities show up as a dark spot on a dental x-ray image of your child’s tooth.

What Should You Do if a Child Has a Cavity?

If your child hasn’t lost their baby teeth yet and you suspect they have a cavity, you may be wondering, “If the tooth is going to fall out anyway, can we let the cavity be and not go through the trouble of taking care of it?”

Like permanent teeth, baby teeth are important. They help your child eat, speak properly, and ensure healthy permanent teeth develop. Additionally, cavities cannot be reversed. The tooth continues to decay without intervention. Once your child has a cavity, it is important for the dentist to remove the affected part of the tooth and fill it.

If you notice a discoloration to your child’s teeth or your child complains of dental pain, we encourage you to schedule a dental appointment for a cleaning, check-up, and treatment by a pediatric dentist.

When your baby’s teeth start to come through, you can start brushing their teeth! While there really isn’t much to do at this stage, it’s important to add this to their daily routine. Of course, so is scheduling their first Little Smiles dental visit! Learn more about when your child should first visit a pediatric dentist.