Tooth decay is one of the primary dental problems that children experience growing up. Tooth decay can cause cavities, tooth pain, and may even lead to bigger problems later in life. Knowing what tooth decay is, understanding the causes, and doing what you can to prevent tooth decay for your children can help you take care of your kid’s teeth. With proper care and by taking preventative measures, you can help your children avoid tooth decay.
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth decay is what occurs when bacteria destroys the hard outer layer of the teeth, called tooth enamel. If tooth decay is allowed to proceed without intervention, the decay will eat a hole through the tooth. This hole is called a cavity. Tooth decay usually looks like a discolored spot on the tooth. This discolored spot can either be chalky white, brown or black.
What Causes Tooth Decay in Children?
The primary cause of tooth decay is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. Bacteria in plaque produce acids that can eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities.
What Children are at Risk for Tooth Decay?
All children are at risk for tooth decay because all people have bacteria in their mouths. However, some children are at a higher risk. For example, children who eat a lot of sugar, have poor oral hygiene, have a lot of plaque-causing bacteria in their mouth, do not get fluoride through their water supply, or who produce less saliva than normal are all at greater risk. Children can avoid plaque and therefore tooth decay through preventative dentistry.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay in Children
Until tooth decay becomes a cavity, symptoms may be very subtle or non-existent. Watch for these symptoms:
- Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Visible holes in the teeth
- Pain when eating hot and cold things
- Persistent or periodic toothache
Young children may not know to voice their opinion or unhappiness when symptoms occur, so taking your child to the dentist is important.
There are many things that dentists can do to treat tooth decay and other childhood dental problems. The type of treatment that a child receives for their dental problems depends on the severity of the problem. The dentist will recommend child tooth decay treatment options based on your child’s unique symptoms.
A filling is an artificial substance that can be used to fill a cavity. Fillings fill the hole and then harden to become a functional part of the tooth. Modern fillings look like tooth enamel, so the tooth bears no visible evidence that a cavity was ever there. Fillings are molded to the shape of the tooth, so the child cannot feel the difference in their mouth.
A veneer is a paper-thin covering that fits on the outside of a tooth. Porcelain veneers are not used to treat tooth decay specifically, but if a child has a discolored or stained tooth, or a tooth with a gap in it, a veneer can cover the outer shell of the tooth to improve the tooth’s appearance. Veneers are also used to treat cracks and chips in the teeth, which could occur in a tooth that has been weakened by tooth decay. Veneers are only an option after the tooth decay itself has been stopped and treated.
A dental crown is a tooth-shaped cap that covers the existing tooth. Crowns are used to protect teeth that have been weakened by decay, to prevent the tooth from further breaking down. Crowns are tooth-colored and typically cannot be distinguished from real, natural teeth.
Trust a Dentist with Proven Results
Plaque and tooth decay can happen at any age, even in very young children. Parents must be vigilant to protect their children from the detrimental effects of tooth decay. Taking your child to an experienced dentist can help. A good dentist can examine your child’s teeth, diagnose your child’s condition and recommend a treatment to restore your child’s smile.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes. Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.