Cavities can sneak up on your child and cause bacterial infections and inflammation. But you can fight cavities in kids once you know their signs.

Cavities in Kids: Top Five Signs Your Child May Have a Cavity

Cavities are no laughing matter. 14% of children ages 5-11 had untreated cavities in 2017-2018. That makes cavities in kids one of the most prominent health problems in the United States.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If you study the signs of cavities, you can protect your child’s teeth and get them the help they need. 

What are the most prominent signs of cavities? What are some steps your child can take to protect their teeth? What are signs that should lead you to schedule a dentist’s appointment? 

Answer these questions and you can fight against cavities in no time. Here are five prominent signs of cavities in kids.


1. Tooth Pain

Tooth pain is a generic symptom, meaning it can apply to any number of dental conditions. Kid cavities produce tooth pain, but so do gum disease and nerve inflammation. 

Cavities can produce a particular kind of pain. Ask your child to point to where the pain is coming from and when it occurs. Cavities will cause pain directly inside the tooth, and it will happen when your child is not eating or drinking. 

The tooth pain can feel stabbing, sharp, or tearing. The bigger the cavities, the worse the pain can get. A child may feel a throbbing pain at first, only for their pain to become stabbing as their nerves become infected.

Your child may also complain to you about gum pain. The pain from their tooth may be radiating into their gums, which suggests that the roots in their tooth are infected. You should respond to gum pain right away by taking your child to a kids dentist

2. Discoloration

Enamel surrounds the tooth, protecting it against acids and abrasive objects. As a cavity starts to form, it wears the enamel down. This can produce white or gray spots on a child’s tooth.

White spots are almost always a sign of a cavity. They indicate the cavity is destroying the structure of the tooth, creating the possibility of tooth decay. 

If a cavity goes untreated, the white spot will turn brown or black. This occurs when bacteria enter through the enamel and attack the roots. The roots get infected and start to rot inside the tooth. 

Brushing the teeth can help restore the enamel and kill the bacteria. Your child can swig antibacterial mouthwash as well. 

But if your child starts to have black spots, you need to bring them to a dentist for kids. Your child may need to have their tooth removed to keep the infection from spreading.

3. Holes in the Tooth

Holes in the tooth can appear alongside white spots. Most holes occur inside the spots, as bacteria puncture through the enamel. 

However, holes can also appear in other parts of the tooth. Some children experience ones close to their gums because they have food stuck in their teeth. The food can chip at the enamel, creating holes and allowing bacteria to enter. 

Holes close to the gums or on the back of the tooth can be hard to notice. If your child experiences gum pain or pain in the back of their tooth, you should take a look at it. You may be able to spot holes with a magnifying glass and a strong light. 

Holes do not heal on their own. A dentist needs to fill them with a metal alloy or another substance. They also need to treat the causes of the holes, killing bacteria and removing debris from your child’s gums.

4. Sensitivity to Particular Foods

Bacteria feed off of carbohydrates. Pasta, sweets, and bread can leave carbohydrates behind in the mouth, allowing bacteria to grow. 

If your child experiences pain after eating carbohydrates, they probably have a bacterial infection and cavities. Their sugar may also get trapped inside the holes in their teeth, creating bigger holes. 

You should help your child eat a balanced diet. They should avoid eating sweets entirely, substituting them with fruits and nuts.

When they have carbohydrates, they should eat whole grains instead of processed ones. The body can digest whole grains better than processed grains, so bacteria do not use them as much for fuel.

5. Sensitivity to Extreme Temperatures

Once the enamel on the tooth wears down, the nerves in the tooth become exposed. Hot or cold foods and drinks can touch the nerves, resulting in extreme pain. 

Temperature sensitivity may become prominent while your child is chewing. The act of chewing applies pressure on the teeth, and hot or cold food can press down on the nerves.

You should take your child to a dentist right away. If you let the pain progress, your child may struggle to eat or drink.

A dentist may need to put a filling over your child’s tooth. The filling should be made of a strong metal like silver, which will prevent liquids from impacting the nerves.

The Most Prominent Signs of Cavities in Kids

Cavities in kids produce several significant symptoms. Tooth and gum pain is the most prominent sign, especially if the pain is sharp or constant.

Spots and holes on the tooth are signs of decay. As the tooth decays, it can become hard for your child to eat sweets or very hot foods. 

You should bring your child to the dentist if their tooth is wearing down or decaying. The dentist can install a filling and kill the bacteria inside it.

Cavities are just one common dental problem. Read more dental guides by following our coverage.

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