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Why Does My Child Have Cavities?

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The most common questions we get from parents in our office have to do with cavities. This makes sense since early childhood tooth decay is the most common illness affecting children in the United States today. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that by age 5, 60% of American children have cavities; however, with the right dental care, that doesn’t have to be the case for your child.

Parent Question: Do cavities in baby teeth need to be filled?

Baby teeth play an important role as space holders for future permanent teeth. Because of this, it’s important that they be protected and restored in order to ensure adult teeth aren’t negatively impacted. Baby teeth are prone to decay as soon as they first start erupting through the gumline, so they should be brushed twice a day just like adult teeth with a rice grain size amount of toothpaste. Flossing your children’s teeth is important once they touch one another. It’s also time to start seeing a dentist when the first tooth appears.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry reports that by age 5, 60% of American children have cavities; however, with the right dental care, that doesn’t have to be the case for your child.

Even the best dental prevention doesn’t prevent all cavities from occurring. Should a cavity develop in a baby tooth, we usually recommend that it be filled in order to prevent further decay and to prevent loss of the tooth. When a baby tooth is lost prematurely, it can cause the surrounding teeth to fill the gap it leaves, which then leads to further complications with the eruption of adult teeth. However, if the cavity is small and in a tooth that will soon fall out, we may just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t grow as opposed to filling it.

Parent Question: Are cavities hereditary?

Short answer: not exactly. One of the most common myths of dentistry we hear is that soft teeth run in families, and families with soft teeth are more prone to cavities. Of course, that is not true. However, it is true that cavities do tend to run in families.

cute mother teaching kid girl teeth brushing

Babies are born without any bacteria in their mouth, but are exposed to them when the saliva of a family member enters their mouth, commonly by sharing a spoon, toothbrush or other item that has passed from mouth to mouth. Once inside a baby’s mouth, these bacteria are the source material for future cavities, which is why early oral hygiene is so effective in limiting cavities.

Parent Question: Why does one of my children have cavities but the other does not?

Like many medical conditions, there are a number of reasons why one child may be more prone to cavities than another. The most obvious reason is that one child has better oral health habits than the other. But other factors that may come into play are differences in diet, especially sugary snack and juice consumption, and the spacing of teeth. Children whose teeth are spaced further apart tend to have fewer cavities than those whose teeth touch. To prevent this disparity, it’s important that all of your children receive the same high level of oral healthcare.

One of the most important things you can do for your children is to help instill in them the importance of good oral healthcare. Regular and proper brushing, flossing, and dental visits will go a long way toward reducing the occurrences of cavities, gum disease, and other dental maladies.