Kids & Teens Dental Place logo

Call our office today to schedule your appointment!

How Can I Tell If My Child Has a Cavity?

June 24, 2024
How Can I Tell If My Child Has a Cavity

Cavities are very common, especially in children, who are still learning how to properly care for their teeth. Most cavities can be easily treated to restore the health of the tooth. The sooner they are treated, the better. But how do you know if your child has a cavity? Here’s what you need to know.  

What is a Cavity? 

A cavity is a small pit or hole that forms in the enamel of a tooth. Cavities are caused by plaque, a sticky film made of food residue and bacteria that clings to the teeth. When it stays too long without being removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria will slowly eat away the enamel, causing a cavity to form. 

Signs and Symptoms of Cavities 

If your child has a small cavity, they will most likely not even know it. Small cavities don’t always have noticeable symptoms. Here’s how you may be able to spot a cavity in the early stages. 

  • Tooth staining. If you take a flashlight and shine it into your child’s mouth you may notice that one or more teeth have some white spots which is the earliest sign that a cavity may be forming. As the decay worsens the spots turn to dark yellow or brown stains. They most commonly form in the pits of the back molars. Be sure to conduct your inspection after your child brushes their teeth so you don’t mistake food residue for a cavity. 

As a cavity becomes larger and deeper into the enamel, there may be more noticeable symptoms, such as: 

  • Sensitivity. The tooth may become sensitive to cold, heat, and sugar once the cavity deepens enough to reach the dentin, the soft layer under the enamel. 
  • Toothache. The tooth may hurt if an infection develops from the opening the cavity created. 
  • Pit or hole. You may be able to see a visible hole or pit in the tooth enamel once a cavity gets big enough. 
  • Black spots. Cavities that have progressed will often turn black. 

Early Detection of Cavities 

When cavities are detected early, they are easier to treat. Small cavities can be treated with a simple filling, which preserves the natural tooth. It prevents the need for more complex treatment such as a root canal, and saves the tooth from being extracted. 

This is why preventive dental appointments should be scheduled every 6 months. A routine dental visit will include an oral evaluation to identify any health concerns, such as cavities or gum disease. It will also include a thorough cleaning of the child’s teeth to remove any plaque that remains after brushing and flossing. Dental X-Rays may be taken once a year to detect cavities that may be difficult to see. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Cavities

Is it worth it to fill a cavity in a baby tooth? 

Primary teeth, or baby teeth as they are more commonly known, do eventually fall out and are replaced with permanent teeth. If a tooth has a cavity, the dentist will determine how soon the tooth will be shed. If it is already loose, a filling will most likely not be necessary. If the tooth is going to be in place for a while yet, a filling will preserve the tooth until it is ready to come out. 

Can the tooth be pulled instead of filled? 

We don’t recommend extracting a tooth before it is ready to be naturally shed. If the permanent tooth is not ready to come in, the other teeth may shift into the gap and block the permanent tooth from coming in properly or at all. 

Schedule a Dental Visit Today

If it has been more than 6 months since your child’s last visit to the dentist, and if they are at least a year old, they are due for an appointment. Kids & Teens Dental Place provides comprehensive dental care for children and adolescents until they reach adulthood. We specialize in pediatric dentistry, providing for the specific dental needs of young people. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment. 

Contact our office today to schedule your appointment!

11041 Shadow Creek Parkway Suite 125 Pearland, TX 77584
9540 S. Main St. Ste 100 Houston, TX 77025
Appointment Request
First Name
Last Name
Preferred Location