Special for Children under 12, $89 For Exam, Cleaning and X-Rays! Learn More

How Do You Know You Have a Cavity?

A Healthy Smile - Toothfairy Pediatric Dental

Your child is sitting at the table with you for dinner, and you watch them wince as they take a bite of their food. It could be nothing… but it also could be an early warning sign of a cavity. But how can you be sure? How do you know if your child has a cavity?

Here at Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental in Reno, we help with a host of dental and orthodontic issues. Cavities are the most common dental issues we see. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five children between the ages of 5 and 11 are dealing with an untreated decayed tooth. That means a 20% chance that your child has a cavity that you haven’t noticed yet.

Watching for Cavities

The good news is that, by knowing certain symptoms, you can more easily identify a cavity. Then, you can call a pediatric dentist so they can provide a composite (tooth-colored) filling to safely clean and restore the tooth back to normal.

Dr. Ben Salar at Toothfairy Pediatric Dental has compiled a list of warning signs to look for if you suspect your child has a cavity, as well as what to do when you think you’ve seen one.

Understanding the Symptoms

  • General Tooth Sensitivity: Wondering how to know if you have a cavity? It often starts with general sensitivity—a dull pain that comes and goes. It typically will occur when biting, chewing, or brushing teeth. This pain is neither strong nor localized, yet it is one of the earliest warning signs of an issue.
  • Sensitivity to Hot or Cold: Very hot or cold beverages can cause a sharp pain that shoots down the jaw.
  • Sensitivity to Wweets: Do sticky, sweet foods like candy cause pain in the mouth when your child eats them?
  • Pain When Closing Their Mouth: Not sure how to know if your children have a cavity? When your child closes their mouth and their upper and lower teeth settle in together, it may cause them pain.
  • Pits or Holes in the Tooth: If you notice that your child’s enamel seems to be pitted, or you notice a small hole, you could be observing the early formation of a cavity.
  • Brown or Black Spots on the Teeth: This is the most recognizable sign, and it also signifies that your child’s cavity has completely eaten into the enamel of the tooth.

Also, understand that although there are many warning signs of cavities, some children end up having cavities and never present any of the above symptoms. So, how do you know you if you have a cavity on your hands?

set of model teeth

Diagnosis and Treatment if You Know You Have a Cavity

The only way to be sure if your child has a cavity is to make an appointment at their pediatric dentist for a checkup. The dentist will typically use two different methods to make a diagnosis:

  • Physical Exam: How is a dentist able to know if you have a cavity? The dentist will use a tool called a dental explorer to look at any areas of the teeth that seem suspicious. They will gently probe each area to check for cavities. If the area they check is hard, the enamel is still strong. If it is soft and sticky, then the enamel has eroded and a cavity may have developed.
  • Dental X-Tays: Sometimes, your child’s dentist will use x-rays to get a deeper look at what’s happening to the teeth and gums. This procedure is completely painless and safe, and it’s the best way how a dentist can know if you have a cavity.

Once you know your child has a cavity, how do you proceed? The dentist will numb the area with pain-free anesthesia. Then, after removing the decay and thoroughly cleaning the area, a composite filling will be put into place to seal the tooth. After the filling is adjusted, your child’s teeth will be good to go, and you’ll be on your way home.

Sometimes, we’re asked about certain home remedies for cavities. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing with a cavity, the treatment needs to be done by a dentist.

toothbrush and toothpaste

Preventative Care for Cavities

The most important question to ask isn’t “how do you know you have a cavity?” but rather, “how do you prevent cavities in the first place?” In this case, the old adage is correct: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Following a few simple steps will help significantly reduce your child’s risk for cavities:

  • Schedule a cleaning and exam every 6 months. For the sake of your child’s oral health, make sure you bring them to the dentist twice a year.
  • Make sure your kids brush twice a day. Follow the “2×2” formula—brush twice a day for two minutes at a time.
  • Ensure your kids floss once a day. Flossing is important for removing food and plaque from between the teeth.
  • Consider dental sealants. Dental sealants help fill small cracks and pits in teeth where bacteria like to hide. Sealants are a safe and highly effective way to fight tooth decay.

How To Know If You Have a Cavity? Call Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental

How do you know if your child has a cavity? How do cavities look? We answer these questions (and many more!) on a daily basis at Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental. There’s a host of good reasons to visit Tooth Fairy!

  • We gladly welcome all Medicaid patients, as well as patients who have most other insurance plans.
  • Our six locations are all conveniently located in the Reno area, making it simple to find an appointment in your neighborhood.
  • Our offices reflect the diversity of our area, and many of our staff members speak Spanish to ensure that everyone feels at ease when they visit.
  • We are proud to offer compassionate dental care for children with special needs. Learn how we use a variety of approaches to make our office a comforting and inclusive environment for everyone.

If you still have questions about how to know if your children have a cavity, or if it’s been more than six months since their last appointment, contact us for an appointment at any one of our six convenient locations in the Reno area.