How to Tell If Your Child Has a Cavity: A Cavity Checklist

Know if your child has a cavity

Make sure your child’s teeth are in tip-top shape.

Is your child complaining of a toothache? If so, it can be difficult to pinpoint the source of the pain. Are their molars coming in? Did they fracture a tooth? Could it be a cavity? Though it can be nerve-wracking to see your child uncomfortable, the good news is most of these conditions are easily treatable! Still, it’s important to know what’s going on so you can take the right next steps.

Today, we’re sharing a quick checklist that can help you determine if your child is dealing with a cavity or a different oral health issue.

Dental Caries in Children

If you suspect your child might have a cavity, you may feel a little isolated. Yet, this is one of the most common pediatric dental concerns we see in our office. In fact, did you know more than 40% of U.S. children from ages two to 11 have had dental caries, or cavities, in their primary teeth? At the same time, more than 20% of children from ages six to 11 have had cavities in their permanent teeth.

Still, while there’s comfort in solidarity, this doesn’t mean the issue should go untreated. Your dentist can help treat and fill the cavity, eliminating the pain and helping your child get back to playing in no time! Here are a few signs this might be the issue.

4 Signs Your Child May Have a Cavity

Any time your child is complaining of a toothache, it’s best to plan a visit with your pediatric dentist so they can perform a thorough examination and get to the root cause of the issue.

In the meantime, here are 4 signs that suggest a cavity might be behind their discomfort.

1. Their teeth are sensitive to hot/cold foods and/or sweets.

Are they suddenly wincing every time they eat a freezer pop? Does a bowl of soup hurt to eat? Is your child straying away from sugary foods or drinks? If your child’s teeth are sensitive to hot, cold, or sweet foods, this could be a sign of a cavity. Why is this the case?

When the enamel on their teeth wears down, it can affect the dentin layer underneath. This is the layer of hard tissue that lies right below their enamel. Inside of this dentin layer, there are many microscopic, hollow tubes. If there isn’t a sufficient amount of enamel present, hot, cold, or even acidic and sweet foods could stimulate the nerves and cells inside of this layer. This can create a sharp jolt of pain when the food touches that surface.

2. They’re experiencing toothaches.

One of the most prevalent signs of a cavity is lingering, ongoing pain in your child’s tooth. In some cases, this pain might come on suddenly, such as after they eat a certain food or drink a beverage. Other times, it can begin as a small, nagging ache that grows in severity. Your child might not be able to trace the discomfort back to one isolated incident (such as biting down on something hard), but they know something is causing them discomfort. In either case, it will usually get worse when they bite down on food. If they mention the discomfort mostly around mealtime, this could point to a cavity.

3. They have discolored teeth.

In the early stages of a cavity, you might notice what appears to be a white spot on your child’s tooth. Yet, you might not think much of it at the time, especially if they aren’t complaining of any pain. Over time, however, if left untreated, this spot can darken into a brown or black shade.

Noticeable on the surface of the tooth, this can help you find cavities in teeth that are easy to see. However, if the cavity is in a hard-to-reach spot in their mouth, it can be easy to miss this sign.

If your child can brush and floss their own teeth, encourage them to use a mirror to examine their teeth as they do so. If you’re still doing this step for them, make sure you can see all the way around their mouth to spot any of these telltale signs and symptoms.

4. They have a pit in their tooth.

It’s best to visit the dentist at least twice a year or however often your dentist recommends. This, along with the prescribed at-home dental routine, usually keeps cavities at bay. However, as we said before, cavities can still happen, even to the most careful people!

You know to visit your child’s pediatric dentist at the very first sign of a cavity; however, if the tooth isn’t in a visibly prominent location, those early white spots can do more than turn dark.

If enough time goes by, they can actually depress into small holes or pits. In addition to showing up on the surface, your child might also be able to feel this pit when they run their tongue over their tooth. By this stage, their pain level is likely heightened, as this is a sign of advanced tooth decay that requires prompt action to treat.

Visit us for quality pediatric dental care.

It’s almost impossible to know for sure whether your child has a cavity. That’s why it’s so important to attend those regularly scheduled professional cleanings twice per year. The evaluation that comes along with the hygiene always includes a cavity assessment. Regular visits to the dentist along with vigilant care at home is the best way to prevent and identify a cavity before it becomes a big, painful problem.

Do you need to book your child’s next appointment? Request one today! We look forward to seeing your family soon.