A cavity is a chronic disease that’s four times more common in adolescents than asthma. Once the bacteria starts to spread, it can cause serious damage to your oral health. Beyond that, a cavity can also ruin your gorgeous smile.

What is a cavity, what causes one to form, and which cavity symptoms should you watch out for?

Keep reading to find out! In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about cavities, including symptoms, prevention, and treatment options. Read on to discover how to deal with a cavity before it impacts your child’s oral health.


What is a cavity exactly, and how does one form?

Cavities are areas on the hard surface of the teeth that have become damaged by bacteria over time. Once the bacteria eat away at your child’s enamel, it can cause tiny holes to form against their teeth. When left untreated, the holes can become larger, affecting deeper areas such as the roots of the teeth.

Failing to brush your teeth regularly can cause plaque to form against the surface of your child’s teeth. Plaque is a clear, sticky film that occurs when bacteria feeds against sugars and starches.

Over time, plaque can harden and form tartar. While you can brush away plaque, you’ll need a dentist’s help to remove tartar.

Plaque contains acids that can remove minerals from the tooth’s enamel. As the enamel starts to break down, it can cause small holes to form. This is one of the first stages of cavity formation.

As the enamel breaks away, the acid and bacteria will continue digging to the next layer of the teeth, the dentin.

The destruction will continue into your child’s inner tooth, or pulp. As the bacteria affect the blood vessels and nerves, it can cause swelling and irritation. Once a nerve is pressed, they’ll begin to experience pain.

About 17% of children between ages 5 and 19 have untreated dental caries. Meanwhile, almost 32% of adults between 20 and 44 have untreated cavities.

Dental caries develop when tooth decay spreads. Multiple factors can cause tooth decay, including these six.

1. Medication

Though medications are meant to help support a healthy lifestyle, they can sometimes have a negative impact on your child’s oral health. Many medications even contain sugar that can cause a cavity to form.

When giving your child chewable vitamins or cough syrup, make sure to check the sugar content for each product.

Chewable vitamins, for example, are sticky and full of unnecessary sugars. The sticky texture can cling to the teeth. If your child doesn’t brush the sticky substance right away, the sugar will break down, allowing bacteria to spread.

In time, that bacteria can cause a cavity.

Consider taking vitamins in pill form instead of as a chewable. If your kids prefer chewable vitamins, look into buying a sugar-free option.

People also reach for cough medications and lozenges that can cause cavity symptoms. Both products contain high fructose corn syrups and a lot of sugar.

After they swallow cough medicine or suck on a lozenge, have your child brush their teeth right away. The longer the sugar remains on their teeth, the more likely the bacteria will cause erosion. You can look into sugar-free options for these products, too.

2. Old Age

As we get older, the gums will begin to recede. This can sometimes leave teeth more vulnerable to bacteria buildup and cavities.

Other factors, such as certain medications, can cause cavities to form, too. If medications are leaving your child’s mouth dry, speak with their dentist. Saliva production can help the mouth rinse out harmful sugars.

If medications are dehydrating your child, they might start experiencing cavity symptoms.

3. Genetics

Your family’s genetics might leave you more prone to cavity formation.

For example, some people inherit deep tooth crevices and enamel issues. The enamel is designed to help protect the teeth. If your child has issues with their enamel, their body might fail to keep harmful bacteria at bay.

Softer enamel also makes it easier for bacteria to dig in and form a cavity.

Does your child have a sweet tooth? Preferring sweet foods over salty ones can cause tooth decay, too.

4. Excess Brushing

Make sure to teach your child how to avoid brushing too much or too hard. Their brushing technique could cause the enamel on their teeth to wear down.

As a result, you could leave their teeth vulnerable to decay.

5. Your Diet

There are also a few foods your child can eat that might cause a cavity to form. If you want them to avoid painful cavity symptoms, try avoiding the foods mentioned below.

Tea and coffee contain chromogens, tannins, and acids. These three ingredients can cause staining against the teeth over time.

The high acid content can break down calcium and other minerals in the teeth. Calcium is responsible for keeping enamel from eroding. If the calcium in the teeth breaks down, you could develop a cavity.

Drinks and foods with high acidity levels can soften the enamel, allowing bacteria to invade.

In the meantime, try to avoid sticky candies and dried fruit. Like gummy vitamins, dried fruit can stick to the teeth, allowing cavities to form.

Try improving your child’s diet by having them eat foods that are good for their teeth. These include leafy greens, salmon, and green tea.

6. Skipping Appointments

Make sure your child maintains good oral hygiene between dentist appointments. It’s important to brush twice a day and floss regularly. Otherwise, sugar buildup against the teeth can cause them to experience cavity symptoms.

In the meantime, make sure to avoid skipping dentist appointments. Visiting dentists can ensure your family members get the help they need to keep cavities at bay.


Oral diseases affect nearly 3.5 billion people around the globe. In fact, untreated dental caries is the most common health condition worldwide. Despite how common cavity symptoms are, they can sometimes differ between each person.

When a cavity first starts to form, your child might not notice any symptoms at all. Over time, the decay will spread, causing them to experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain when chewing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Spontaneous pain
  • Toothaches
  • Visible holes in the teeth
  • White, black, or brown staining against the teeth

As the decay continues to spread, they might also experience:

  • Damage to the teeth
  • Swelling or pus around the teeth
  • Chewing complications
  • Tooth abscess
  • Pain

The pain can start to interfere with your child’s quality of life over time. If they’re having trouble eating or chewing, it could cause weight loss, too.

As your child begins losing their teeth and noticing a change in their appearance, their self-esteem and confidence might drop as well.

Remember, your child might not realize a cavity is forming if the process is still in the beginning stages. With that in mind, it’s important to schedule regular dentist visits. Your dentist will know which symptoms to look for to ensure your child receives dental care as soon as possible.


The best way to avoid these cavity symptoms is to maintain good oral and dental hygiene. Brushing twice a day and flossing will keep bacteria from eating away at the enamel.

Make sure to use fluoride toothpaste after eating. Keeping your child’s teeth clean will minimize bacteria, which will keep plaque from forming.

Your child can also rinse their mouth out with fluoride if you fear they’re at a higher risk of cavity formation.

Otherwise, make sure to visit your dentist regularly. Routine oral exams will help your dentist spot and prevent problems as soon as possible. A professional cleaning can also help remove plaque from the teeth before it hardens into tartar.

If you’re still worried about cavity formation, consider dental sealants.

Sealants are a protective, plastic coating that’s applied to the back teeth. These sealants can protect the teeth from plaque and acid. You might consider sealants for your child if they’re prone to cavities.

Also, make sure your child drinks plenty of water throughout the day. Some public water supplies contain fluoride, which can reduce the chances of tooth decay. Staying hydrated will help the teeth rinse out sugars and starches too.


During a checkup, your dentist will search for the early signs of tooth decay to help your child avoid a cavity. If a cavity has already formed, they might recommend treatments such as:

  • Fluoride treatments
  • Crowns
  • Fillings
  • Root canals
  • Tooth extractions

Fluoride treatments can reverse a cavity while it’s in the beginning stages by restoring your enamel. Crowns and fillings can help protect the teeth by removing the decay. A root canal, on the other hand, is ideal if the tooth is badly damaged.

If the tooth is severely decayed and your dentist can’t restore it, your child will likely need an extraction.

Make sure to discuss these treatment options with your dentist to determine which is best for your child’s needs.

Keeping Teeth Happy and Healthy: Cavity Symptoms to Watch Out For

Don’t let bacteria eat away at your child’s beautiful teeth. Instead, keep them brushing to keep their teeth happy and healthy. By watching out for these cavity symptoms, you can get help before the damage becomes irreparable.

Looking for more helpful tips? Explore the Health and Wellness section of the blog today!

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