Yes, your toddler’s smile can light up the room, however, toddler cavities can be a source of stress for you and your baby.

One of the interesting things is that toddler cavities are common in baby teeth.

In fact, experts share that about 20% of the kids ranging from ages 2 to 5 may have cavities that go without treatment.

While your child will lose their temporary or baby teeth eventually, taking care of these teeth is also important.

This is because they hold the space for adult teeth or permanent teeth.

Here is more about the symptoms your child may experience with a cavity, what treatment options are and how a strong dental care routine can help from an early age, protect those pearly whites.

Causes of Toddler Cavity

Cavities or tooth decay are weak points in the otherwise strong tooth enamel of your child.

Throughout the day, a sticky coating of plaque forms on the teeth of your child which traps the sugars from the foods they eat.

When your child does not brush their teeth, the bacteria in the plaque release acids.

These break down the enamel and form holes or cavities in the tooth.

Some of the common causes of toddler cavities are:

Brushing Habits: Not brushing often or properly allows sugar to sit in the teeth and turn into aids.

Moreover, these acids attack the teeth of your child for up to 20 minutes after each snack or meal, regardless of the size.

toddler cavities causes

Dietary Choices: Eating lots of sugary foods or eating a lot of food frequently throughout the day can cause acid to build up on the teeth and weaken the enamel.

Bottle Use: If your toddler goes to sleep with bottles, drinks juice out of it, or uses bottles as pacifiers, then they may develop toddler cavities.

Moreover, decay from the bottle often affects the middle two front teeth of your child.

Genetics: Some toddlers are more prone to cavities because they have weaker enamel or some other genetic factor.

These may include low saliva production or tooth shape.

Symptoms and Early Signs of Toddler Cavities

One of the important things to note is that your child may not show any symptoms of cavities, especially if the decay is in the early stages.

Moreover, this is why many dentists recommend regular dental appointments are important to maintaining dental health even for your child.

toddler cavities symptoms

Your pediatric dentist can help spot and treat cavities even before they become impossible to treat with a filling.

Early Signs of Toddler Cavities

Your child may not show any signs of having a cavity, while other times, the signs are quite subtle or your child is unable to articulate them.

While brushing their teeth, make it a habit to examine their teeth.

This way, you can spot certain changes and bring them up to a dentist when you have concerns.

Make sure to look out for:

  • white spots on teeth that are also early signs of decay
  • tooth pain or pain around the affected area
  • sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  • discoloration that is light brown and is also an early sign of a cavity

Other Symptoms

As the toddler cavity progress, the color of it may change from light brown to dark brown or even black.

Along with certain physical symptoms, or pain, your child may also exhibit signs that are not obvious.

Trouble Eating

In some cases, tooth pain may become so intense that eating simple snacks and meals may cause an unpleasant experience.

Moreover, after some time, your child may simply choose to stop eating foods to avoid discomfort.

Trouble with Weight Gain or Vitamin Deficiencies

If your toddler has trouble eating a balanced diet, they can also have trouble gaining weight or getting the right balance of vitamins and minerals.


Furthermore, your toddler might not be able to explain what they are experiencing if they are younger.

Instead, they may cry or be cranky, and may also tug at their ear when they are in pain.

If you do not get treatment, it may cause an infection in the tooth of your child.

Signs of an infection are fever and pain, as well as, abscess on the tooth or facial swelling.

Therefore, it is important to talk to your dentist or pediatric if you have concerns about infection.

When to Visit a Dentist?

Keep in mind that your child can develop cavities as soon as they get their first tooth.

While it may seem early, according to the American Dental Association, ADA, take your baby to the dentist by the time they have their first tooth.

After that first appointment, you should make sure that you go for regular checkups after every 6 months, according to the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, AAPD.


However, in case, your child is complaining of tooth pain or you notice other symptoms, you may want to head sooner to the dentist.

At your appointment, your dentist will:

Take into consideration their dental history, look at their teeth, and also perform an X-ray to evaluate the level of decay.

Once your dentist has a complete picture, they can proceed with a plan for monitoring the tooth and even treat it.

Treatment Options

There are different options when it comes to treating toddler cavities.

In case the decay is not in advanced stages, your dentist may suggest monitoring the tooth and following good dental hygiene to see if the decay reverses

With the help of professional fluoride treatment, your dentist might be able to reverse the early decay by restoring the tooth enamel.

Restorations or Fillings

A filling involves removing the decaying part of the tooth by drilling to create a hole.

Your dentist will then fill the hole with silver or amalgam, resin or composite, or some other material.

Moreover, this is a single office visit treatment.

However, if your child has more than one cavity, your dentist may offer to break up the visits.

The procedure of getting a filling involves an injection in the mouth to dull the pain during the procedure.

If you think your child may have trouble getting a filling, you can ask about sedation dentistry.


There are different types of sedation including nitrogen oxide or “laughing gas”.

Furthermore, your dentist can also walk you through the type that is best for your child.

Other Treatments

In case of severe cases of decay, your dentist might suggest placing a crown over the affected tooth.

A crown often takes just one visit to a place, as it will come in pre-formed sizes.

However, in case the crowns need to be made, it can take two or more visits to complete, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Extraction or pulling the tooth of your child is another option in case of infection or damage.

Such a procedure involves putting a pacer to make sure there is enough room for adult teeth to come in later on.

Temporary Pain Relief

A cavity will not go away on its own and if you can get in to see the dentist as soon as possible, you can take a few steps to ease your child’s toothache at home.

Moreover, these temporary ways can help to reduce the pain from the cavity and you should make sure to follow up as soon as possible with a dental check-up.

Over-the-Counter, OTC Pain Relief

You can give acetaminophen or Children’s Tylenol to numb the ache and make sure to follow the bottle’s instructions.

And doses according to the weight of your child or doctor’s recommendations.

Furthermore, make sure o brush the teeth of your child well after giving the medication as it contains sugar that can sit on the teeth.

Salt Water

Swishing with salt water can help ease the pain around the tooth and the salt may provide some antibacterial protection.

Dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt into a quarter cup of boiling water.

However, you can also add cold water to adjust the temperature. Instruct your child to swish it around the mouth.

You may want to avoid this method if your child is too young and cannot follow instructions as they may swallow the salt water.

Cold Compress

In case your little one has swelling on the face, a compress can help to reduce inflammation and dull pain. Use an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables.

Place a dry cloth between your tot’s face and a cold pack to make sure to avoid frostbite, while a wet paper towel may also do the trick.

Clove Oil

Clove oil contains Eugenol that helps to relieve toothache.

According to a review of studies, eugenol is more effective than OTC topical pain relievers at reducing inflammation, pain, and even infection.

In order to use it, dilute a few drops of clove oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil, sock this solution in a cotton ball, and apply it to the affected area.

However, be careful while using this method with young children so that they do not swallow the cotton ball.

Preventing Toddler Cavities

If your child has cavities in the baby teeth, then they are more likely to develop cavities in their adult teeth.

You can help avoid tooth decay from the start by promoting good dental hygiene and tweaking lifestyle habits.

The following tips can help:

help your child to brush their teeth twice a day with toothpaste that contains fluoride.

And toddlers only need a pea-sized amount of toothpaste to do the trick.

Make sure to practice flossing with your child at least once a day, according to ADA.

You can use a standard floss, or another tool, ideally sized for your child’s mouth, like a water flosser, floss pik, or pre-threaded flosser.


Provide your child with healthy meals and snacks that do not contain too much-added sugar.

While foods like cheese, milk, and yogurt are good choices as they are low in sugar but high in calcium, drinking plenty of water instead of juice can also help.

Do not allow your child to fall asleep for nighttime or naps with a bottle or sippy cup of juice or milk

Make sure to visit a dentist regularly as professional cleaning and dental exam twice a year can help, according to AAPD.

Ask your dentist about fluoride treatment or sealants that may help to provide an additional barrier of protection on baby teeth,

Final Thoughts

Though baby teeth are temporary but important. Treat the dental visits of your toddler like you would do for yourself.

Routine cleanings and exams can help to spot small issues before they turn into decay and cavities that can potentially affect the smile of your child. However, if cost is a concern, there is always help.