Cavities in Children

Dental caries or cavities are seen frequently, but thanks to better preventative measures, there has been a decrease over the last 20 years.

Preventing cavities

One of the most important factors related to cavities is the consumption of carbohydrates or sugar. Actually, the development of dental caries depends more on how often a child consumes sugary foods rather than the exact amount. In children who still drink from the bottle, one of the most important causes of caries is putting them to bed with a bottle. Both juice and milk contain sugar, which remains on the baby’s teeth overnight resulting in the formation of “Nursing Bottle Caries”, usually in the upper teeth.

Aside from the pain and discomfort of the cavities, the treatment can also be painful. In extreme cases, the teeth cannot be salvaged, and need to be removed. In very young children, extraction may require heavy sedation or even a general anesthetic. Clearly then, the goal is to prevent cavities in children.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Fluoride is the most effective measure against dental caries and, depending on local fluoride levels in the drinking water, children may need additional supplementation. Your local municipality should be able to tell you the amount of fluoride in your drinking water. Knowing this, your doctor can then decide if supplementation is needed and how much. This is important, as we do not want to give too much fluoride to children. For the same reason, when brushing teeth in older children, toothpaste (which contains fluoride) should be put sparingly on the toothbrush. Squeeze out an amount about the size of a pea. More is unnecessary. It’s important to avoid excessive fluoride ingestion. For the same reason, begin using toothpaste only when your child is old enough to understand not to swallow it.
  • Modifying the child’s diet to decrease the frequency of sugar consumption is very important. Bottle-fed children should never be put to bed with the bottle. If this is not possible, try to give them water at naptime or bedtime.
  • Oral hygiene and care are essential. As soon as teeth develop, they should be cleaned daily with wet gauze or a washcloth.
  • Review proper tooth-brushing techniques with your dentist, and be sure that your children can brush properly before allowing them to brush on their own. As long as the spaces between the teeth are wide enough to allow the toothbrush access, flossing is not necessary. As soon as the spaces between the teeth are tight enough to allow it regularly, daily flossing should also begin.
  • Finally, get your child used to go to the dentist. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry currently recommends that the first dental visit be scheduled at 1 year of age or 6 months after the first tooth erupts…. whichever comes first. This gives the dentist the opportunity to examine for existing cavities, and look for any abnormalities in your child’s tooth development.


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Pediatrician DR.PAUL Roumeliotis is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The information provided above is designed to be an educational aid only. It is not intended to replace the advice and care of your child’s physician, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. If you suspect that your child has a medical condition always consult a physician.