Tooth Cavities In Kids: Causes, Treatment, And Prevention

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A tooth cavity also known as dental caries or simply a cavity is a hole or structural damage in the tooth caused by tooth decay. Tooth decay occurs when the enamel or the outer cover of teeth gets gradually broken down by acid produced by bacteria that live inside the mouth. It can be characterized by plaque formation which is a sticky film on the tooth caused by bacteria, acid attack where the acid attacks the enamel, and Demineralization where the enamel is demineralized and then leads to cavity formation or a small opening in the tooth. Over time the tooth completely loses its use and becomes useless. Let’s look at the causes, treatment, and prevention methods for the same.

Causes of tooth cavities in kids

They are generally caused by a combination of bacteria, dietary factors, and poor oral hygiene. Some of the prominent reasons include-

  1. Bacterial action- Bacterias like streptococcus mutans and lactobacillus are naturally present in the mouth to serve their purpose. However, when you consume sugar and starches, the bacteria start feeding on them and produce acid as a by-product. The caids then get to the tooth enamel and corrode it over time.
  2. Plaque formation- When food particles, saliva, and other elements get stuck in the body. They turn into bacteria and could harm the teeth profusely.
  3. Poor oral hygiene- after eating, many kids do not brush their teeth or wash them. Over time the sugar starts accumulating on the teeth and could be a breeding ground for bacteria both bad and good. This leads to decay and inadequate brushing and flossing lets it accumulate.
  4. High sugar and starch intake- If the diet primarily consists of sugar and other sweet substances. Bacteria could find this a conducive environment to produce acid which leads to its further decay. Frequent consumption of chocolates, candies, cakes, and cookies could form deep cavities in your teeth.
  5. Lack of fluoride- Most toothpastes contain fluoride as its essential for the strength of the enamel. But when you stop brushing your teeth as much as you should. The insufficient fluoride in teeth makes them weaker to fight off infections or acid attacks by bacteria ultimately causing decay.
Cavities In Kids

Treatment:

The treatment of tooth cavities in kids involves a combination of preventive measures, restorative procedures, and in some cases surgical intervention. The goal is to stop the progression of decay, preserve as much healthy tooth structure as possible, and ensure the overall health of the child. It includes-

  • Dental examination- The initial step is to conduct a thorough dental examination including X-rays that could give a comprehensive picture of the extent of the cavity and determine the most appropriate treatment plan.
  • Dental fillings- Once discovered, dental fillings are considered which include removal of the decayed part of the tooth and filling the hole with restorative material such as composite resin, amalgam, or glass ionomer. This is usually suggested for a low to moderate range of cavities.
  • Stainless steel crowns- For larger cavities beyond dental filling, the process is a bit more detailed. In molars, the teeth are cleaned dilled, and then given a crown to prevent further bacterial activity. The crown covers the entire tooth providing it with durability and strength.
  • Pulpotomy or pulpectomy- When the infection reaches the tooth pulp, partial or complete pulp removal is necessary. Not only does this alleviate pain but also prevents the spread of infection.
  • Extraction- When the cavity becomes extremely sensitive and shows no sign of restorative ability. It is removed completely to prevent the infection from spreading to the other teeth.

Prevention: cavities in kids

Preventing tooth cavities in kids involves a combination of good oral hygiene practices, a balanced diet, regular dental checkups, and other preventive measures. Here are some ways to prevent cavities-

Establish good oral hygiene- Teach children to brush their teeth at least twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush. Start flossing as soon as the adjacent teeth touch by teaching them the right technique.

Use toothpaste while brushing- Not only should it be fluoride-rich but also should be spitting out instead of swallowed in. Parents should supervise the brushing sessions.

Balanced diet- The diet of children needs to be modified according to their needs. Adding calcium to their diet and avoiding sugar can produce favorable results for teeth. Also encourage them to consume whole grains, proteins, and fruits rich in Vitamin C.

Timing of meals- Always make sure that they don’t eat food before going to bed. It should be taken at least 2 hours before bedtime and kids should brush their teeth afterward to avoid sticking any food substance to the teeth.

Regular dental checkups- After following all the steps above. Parents should also take their kids for monthly dental checkups and make sure their teeth are in good condition. In case they don’t adopt the necessary steps.

Apart from these always subject your children to professional cleanings every 2-3 years as regular ones could corrode them. It will remove the plaque and tartar too difficult for the toothpaste to tackle otherwise. Educate them about the teeth and the implications of not preserving them. This will help inculcate better tooth practices without much resistance.

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Conclusion

Tooth decay and cavities can be painful if they progress to the next stage. However, to avoid it one must take all the necessary steps before a tooth is attacked. As children might not be quite adept at taking care of their teeth on their own, parents need to supervise and monitor their habits and teach them the proper way to brush and floss. Monitor their tooth development, add fluoride supplements to their diet, and ask them to wear tooth guards while playing sports to avoid unnecessary chipping or breakage of the teeth that could further escalate to tooth cavities and gaps.

References:

  1. Nematollahi H, Mehrabkhani M, Sheykhani M. Assessing the relationship between diet and prevalence of early childhood caries in Birjand preschool children. J Dent. 2007;8(1):70–85. Google Scholar 
  2. Wagle M, D'Antonio F, Reierth E, Basnet P, Trovik TA, Orsini G, Manzoli L, Acharya G. Dental caries and preterm birth: a systematic review and metaanalysis. BMJ Open. 2018;8(3):e018556. Article |  PubMed 

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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