While many parents dream of their children growing to adulthood without a single cavity in sight, undergoing fillings at a young age is unfortunately common. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of children ages 5 to 9 have at least one cavity filling. With proper support from both the parents and the family dentist, a child’s first cavity filling experience can be comfortable as well as educational.
Symptoms of Cavities in Children
Usually, older children are quick to notify their parents of any dental pain; however, toddlers may have trouble communicating to parents about their specific ailments. Additionally, cavities don’t always cause pain, causing them to go undiagnosed until the child’s biannual visit. Some symptoms of tooth decay in children include:
• Chewing only on one side of the mouth
• Chalky white spots on the teeth or other discoloration
• For toddlers, excessive crying for no apparent reason could signal painful tooth decay
• Your child complains that it hurts to brush and/or floss their teeth
• Your child has a swollen cheek accompanied by a fever
If your child has any of the symptoms above, call your dentist immediately to schedule a dental exam. In the meantime, you can give them an icepack to hold against their cheek to soothe any pain or swelling.
How to Prepare Your Child for the Filling Procedure
If your dentist has diagnosed your child with his or her first cavity, it is important that you remain calm in front of the child. Appearing nervous or stressed will cause the child to believe that they should be frightened to get their cavity filled. Other tips for cavity filling preparation are:
• Use non-intimidating dental language, such as telling your children they have a “sick tooth” rather than a cavity
• Educate your children about cavities using picture books or online resources
• Walk your child through the procedure by playing “pretend dentist” with them
• Answer your child’s questions, but do not talk excessively about the procedure
When preparing a child for their first filling, it is important that you are honest and relaxed. You should avoid making a big deal of the procedure or displaying any dental fears.
Cavity Prevention Tips
Your child’s first cavity filling is a wake-up call for any negative dental hygiene habits they may have picked up. Cavity prevention education for children goes a long way in ensuring they have healthy, strong teeth for a lifetime. Here are some tips to help prevent further cavities in little ones:
• Limit sugary drinks such as soda or fruit juice
• Clean your child’s teeth with a damp cloth or a toothbrush as soon as they erupt
• Bring children in for biannual dental visits before the age of one
• Do not leave a bottle with your infant or toddler overnight
• Practice proper brushing and flossing habits in front of your child
• Monitor your children’s brushing and flossing
Going to the dentist for your child’s first cavity filling doesn’t have to be a nightmare. As long as you adequately prepare your child (and yourself!) for the procedure, the appointment should be hassle free and quick. To prevent more cavities further down the line, it may be time to sit down with your dentist and discuss any changes you could make to your child’s diet or dental hygiene routine.