Teeth First! Teeth First!

What is a Cavity?

Many of us have heard of cavities, but what are they?

A cavity is a hole in the tooth that grows bigger and deeper over time. Cavities are also sometimes called dental caries. Harmful bacteria from cavities can spread easily within a family.

Having a cavity can be a serious problem, even for babies and young children. If is not fixed, a cavity can cause a lot of pain, lost sleep, difficulty learning, and poor general health. If a cavity is in a baby tooth, it can damage the permanent teeth underneath that haven't come in yet. If cavities are not treated for a long time, they can even lead to hospitalization and dental surgery that requires your child to be under general anesthesia.

How to tell if your child has a cavity

Healthy baby teeth are white and shiny and do not hurt. Healthy gums are pink, surround the tooth tightly, and don't bleed. Cavities usually start in the upper front teeth and move to molars and lower front teeth.

Every child can experience cavities differently, but some signs that your child might have a cavity include:

  • White spots on a tooth (these usually appear first)
  • A tooth changes in color (early cavities are light brown in color)
  • A tooth starts to get darker and a hole may be visible
  • A tooth becomes sensitive to foods such as sweets or cold drinks

How to stop cavities from forming

The good news is that cavities are easily preventable - if you know how they are caused and how to prevent them.

Cavities are caused by:

  • Giving your child a bottle at bedtime/naptime with any liquids other than water
  • Allowing your child to sleep all night at the breast
  • Using a bottle as a pacifier,
  • Dipping a pacifier in anything sweet like sugar or honey
  • Allowing your child to drink from a bottle or sippy cup throughout the day instead of at meal times only

Ways to prevent cavities:

  • Hold your baby during feeding times instead of propping the bottle
  • Don't use a bottle as a pacifier
  • Use bottle for breast milk, formula, or water only
  • No juice, soda, orange drink, or other sweet drinks in baby's bottle or sippy cup
  • Start using a cup at age 6-9 months
  • Wean your baby off the bottle by their first birthday
  • Clean your baby's teeth twice a day with a baby toothbrush or a soft cloth as soon as they come in
  • Clean baby's teeth just before bedtime every night, so there is no milk or formula on their teeth during the night
  • Do not share food, utensils, toothbrushes, or clean baby's pacifier with your mouth. Harmful bacteria from cavities in your mouth can be transferred to them.

One of the best ways to help prevent cavities is to bring your child to the dentist by age one for a simple checkup. You'll have a chance to ask questions, and the dentist will gently examine your child's teeth to make sure they're off to a healthy start.

TeethFirst! Creating healthy smiles for a lifetime.