Children’s Tooth Decay


As a parent, you prioritize the dental health of your child, understanding that bacteria in their mouths can make them susceptible to tooth decay, one of the most common childhood diseases. Tooth decay occurs when the thin outer layer of a tooth, called enamel, deteriorates, potentially leading to cavities with small holes or openings.


Primary teeth in children are typically more prone to cavities and weaker compared to adult teeth. Therefore, it is important for parents to be aware of the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures to safeguard their children’s dental health.


Causes of Tooth Decay in Children: According to a 2018 article in the British Dental Journal, one in four children in the UK experiences tooth decay by the age of five.


Tooth decay in children is mainly caused by plaque that remains on teeth after consuming sugars or starches. Bacteria in the mouth react with these sugars, producing acids that can erode tooth enamel.

Baby bottles and on-demand breastfeeding are significant contributors to dental decay in very young children. Early dental visits can help identify these issues and potentially prevent future dental problems.


Signs of Tooth Decay in Children


Children with tooth decay typically display the following signs:

  • Complaining of tooth pain and/or sensitivity, especially during eating
  • Increased redness and swelling of the gums
  • Appearance of white spots on teeth, usually near the gum line, indicating enamel breakdown. If left untreated, these white spots can progress into cavities.
  • Dental cavities may become stained brown or black, with significant damage to the tooth structure.


Prevention of Tooth Decay in Children: Oral Hygiene: Instilling proper oral hygiene habits in children establishes a foundation for their dental health. Teaching children how to protect their teeth can effectively prevent tooth decay.




Children under the age of seven often lack the manual dexterity and cognitive abilities required for effective brushing, so it is important for parents to brush their teeth for them. Properly brushing your child’s mouth is essential, ensuring that all areas are reached. Toothbrushes with soft bristles and small heads are most suitable, while the shape and angle of the head are not significant factors.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get plaque off my toddler's teeth?

The best and only way to get plaque off your child’s teeth is to brush twice a day with a soft tooth brush and fluoride tooth paste. In some cases, the plaque may be too hard to get off in which a dentist will have to clean it off.

How should I clean my baby's teeth?

If your child is a baby it is best to use a small headed soft brush and water to brush away any food stuck on the teeth. Once they get to the age of two or three you should start using a pea size amount of fluoride toothpaste when brushing to protect their teeth from cavities. Brushing teeth twice a day will help to remove plaque or food that is sitting on the teeth.

Is my child getting enough fluoride?

Here in Ireland, we have fluoride in our water which is a great way to get fluoride. When a child is the age of two or three, they should start using fluoride tooth paste to make sure they are getting enough fluoride to protect their teeth from cavities. If a dentist feels a child is at risk of developing cavities during a dental exam, they may apply a fluoride varnish to give extra protection to the teeth.

Why should my child see a dentist for regular cleanings?

It is important for a child to come for dental cleanings regularly as it can help the dentist spot early decay that could become more severe. It also is vital for them to have their teeth cleaned to remove any plaque stuck to the teeth which can lead to a cavity. Seeing the dentist every six months will also get your child into a habit for when they are adults.

How often should a child see the dentist?

It is recommended that a child comes for their exam and cleaning every 6 months. If a child has a higher risk of developing cavities the dentist may suggest coming for exam and cleanings more often.

Get in touch now!


Smilehub provides excellence in dental care book online for an appointment today

Dental Treatments

Contact Us

    I consent to my personal data being collected and being stored as per the privacy policy.

    01 5253888

    Mon – Sun : 7.30am-10pm

    Open 7 Days a week Open 365 Days a Year Open on Weekends

    Smile Hub Dental Clinic, Bayside Medical Centre, Bayside Shopping Centre, Sutton, Dublin 13.

     Eircode: D13 WD51.