Children are more prone to tooth decay than adults for two major reasons - they tend to have a diet higher in sugar and they have weaker, thinner enamel compared to adult teeth. Tooth decay occurs when food particles have been left behind in the mouth as a result of inadequate brushing or flossing.
When these food particles are left behind, bacterial plaque feeds off of sugars and transforms them into acids that attack the tooth enamel. Over time, these acid attacks lead to holes or cavities in the teeth. This is why thorough brushing, flossing, and regular dental cleanings are so critical, especially in children. Here are five signs of tooth decay in children.
The first sign of early tooth decay comes in the form of white spots on the teeth. White spots on the teeth indicate a breakdown of the enamel from acid attacks. This can occur from plaque buildup and eating too much sugar or acidic foods.
Another early sign of tooth decay is having a white band along the gumline. Over time, this band can transform into a brown or black color, which suggests the decay has progressed.
If your teeth feel sensitive, especially after eating certain foods, you might have a cavity. Most children with cavities experience sensitivity when eating sugary, hot, or cold foods. A big sign that it’s a cavity is if the sensitivity lingers after you’ve stopped eating.
If you notice a hole or dark discoloration in your tooth, this is a sign that you have a cavity. A cavity will first appear as light brown and will turn much darker as it penetrates deeper into the tooth. If you notice a hole in your child’s tooth and no dental trauma or accident has happened that can explain the hole, then it is most likely a cavity that needs to be filled right away.
Cavities will cause tooth pain, especially when your child chews. As decay worsens, they may experience lingering pain that comes and goes. If the pain is severe, you should take them to an emergency appointment right away, as this suggests something is wrong with the tooth and they may have an infection.
A clear sign of severe tooth decay and infection is gum and facial swelling and the appearance of pimples on the gums around the affected tooth. This is an abscess filled with pus, caused by infected dental pulp. Your child will need a pulpotomy, a root canal, or an extraction.
If your child is showing any of these symptoms, bring them into Little Smiles Pediatric Dentistry in Ashburn for a checkup. The ADA recommends attending dental checkups and cleanings every 6 months unless your child is experiencing an active oral health problem.
We can examine their teeth and take x-rays to get a closer look at the inside of the tooth, looking for signs of tooth decay or an infection. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Konz.