One of the most common dental problems in children is cavities (in medical terms these are called dental caries).
What is a cavity?
- Cavities are permanently damaged areas in the hard surfaces of your teeth that develop into little openings or holes. If left untreated, these can get bigger and deeper and lead to a severe toothache, infection, and tooth loss.
Why do cavities form?
- There are bacteria in our mouths that feed on sugary and starchy foods and drinks (like juice, milk, candy, fruit, bread, sodas, etc.). When this bacteria feeds on these things, it causes acid to form. The mixture of bacteria, acid, saliva, and food mixes to form plaque which sticks to the thin outer covering of your teeth (called the enamel) and causes it to break down. When the enamel gets destroyed, it causes a cavity.
Do cavities affect anything besides my teeth?
- In children, dental caries can affect nutrition, growth, and development. The pain of dental caries can cause difficulty concentrating in school, leading to poor performance. Needing to take time off from school to have the cavities treated can increase school absences which can also lead to poor performance.
- Cavities can also result in serious infections that can cause swelling of the face and may result in the need for urgent, expensive treatment and sometimes admission to the hospital.
How can you tell if you have a cavity?
Some signs and symptoms might be:
- Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweet foods and drinks
- Toothaches and pain when you bite down
- Visible holes in your teeth
- Brown, black or white stains on the surface of a tooth
How can you prevent cavities?
- Brush your teeth 2-3 times a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Floss after each meal
- Limit your sugary foods and drinks
- Use fluoride mouthwashes
- Don’t snack frequently
- Go to your dentist regularly!
How often should you see a dentist?
- At least once every 6 months!
If you have questions about dental health, don’t hesitate to contact the Quincy Student Health and Wellness Center at (509) 787-8943!