It’s likely you had at least one cavity as a kid and/or your child has had a cavity. But exactly how common are cavities in childhood? Here, we discuss cavities in more detail, including what they are, what causes cavities, how common they are, and cavity prevention tips.
What Is a Cavity?
Cavities, also known as permanent tooth decay, are areas in the enamel of your teeth that are permanently damaged, resulting in tiny holes and pits. Cavities are most commonly caused by the effects of poor oral hygiene and an unhealthy diet. A cavity may be associated with:
- Mild to severe toothaches
- Pain when eating or drinking something cold, hot, or sweet
- Sensitivity to chewing pressure
- Black, brown, or white staining
- Visible pits or holes
- Chronic bad breath
What Causes a Cavity to Develop?
As mentioned above, cavities usually develop due to an unhealthy diet and poor oral hygiene practices. The first step in the development of tooth decay comes when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, forms on your teeth. If you consume a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates and don’t brush your teeth twice every day, bacteria accumulates as they feed upon your dietary sugars. As they feed, they produce enamel-destroying acids that strip the minerals from your tooth enamel. If you don’t take steps to remineralize early-stage tooth decay, it progresses to permanent damage in the form of pits and holes, called cavities. If the decay extends through the enamel to the next layer of your teeth, called the dentin, and eventually to the inner pulp, you can experience pain, infection, and eventual tooth loss.
How Common Are Cavities in Childhood?
Children are one of the age groups that are most commonly affected by tooth decay due to a variety of factors, such as skipping out on brushing or consuming too many sweets, sugary drinks, and highly processed snacks. Unfortunately, pediatric cavities are actually on the rise with an increase in the number of preschoolers who have had 6 to 10 cavities, or more! The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that 42% of children between the ages of 2 and 11 have had cavities in baby teeth and 21% of children ages 6 to 11 have had cavities in their adult teeth.
How Can Parents Help Prevent Cavities?
- Help your children maintain a superb at-home oral hygiene routine by brushing their teeth twice every day for two minutes each time and flossing between their teeth at least once a day.
- Show your child how to properly brush all their teeth and their tongue to reduce plaque accumulation.
- It’s also vital that your child is getting enough fluoride, which helps to remineralize and strengthen enamel. Encourage them to drink fluoridated tap water and to use a safe amount of fluoridated toothpaste. Children under 3 years old only need to brush with a smear of toothpaste the size of a grain of rice, and children between 3 and 6 only need to use a pea-sized amount.
- Teach your child to consume sugar and refined carbohydrates in moderation, and encourage a balanced diet that regularly includes whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Only let your child chew sugar-free gum.
Additionally, bringing your child in to Shaenfield Pediatric Dentistry for regular checkups and cleanings is paramount for cavity prevention. Contact us today to schedule your child’s next visit!Contact Us