What Causes Tooth Decay In Kids?

A young girl practicing teeth brushing techniques on a 3D model of a mouth.

Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is a common dental issue among children of all ages. Sugary drinks, sticky snacks, and the lack of fully developed good dental habits all play a role in the unfortunate and all too common reality of kids suffering from tooth decay. 

As the name suggests, tooth decay is an adverse reaction your teeth will have to the continued exposure of certain bacteria. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth produce acids that erode a tooth’s enamel — the protective outer layer of the teeth. When the enamel erodes, cavities develop, resulting in loss of teeth functionality and even pain.

If you have questions about your child’s oral health, schedule an appointment with the talented team at Absolute Dental. Our team will help empower your child to develop good dental hygiene habits for the best smile possible. 

Schedule your child’s next appointment today (844) 8‑SMILE‑NOW
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Causes Of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is often not the result of one singular issue but the impact of a culmination of issues. Your child may be at risk of tooth decay if they do the following: 

  • Eat sugary snacks and drink sugary beverages
  • Lack of good dental hygiene habits, including brushing twice a day and flossing
  • Use a toothpaste that does not have fluoride
  • Eat sticky foods that adhere to teeth and are difficult to brush off
  • Miss routine dental check-ups and cleanings 

Although tooth decay among children is prevalent, it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand the causes of tooth decay in kids. Knowing what to look for can help keep the children in your life from having to suffer preventable tooth decay, unnecessary pain, and, in some cases, dental health issues that stay with them into adulthood. 

Foods To Avoid To Prevent Cavities In Kids

Prevention is key when it comes to good dental hygiene and avoiding tooth decay in kids. Prevention largely starts with paying attention to the types of food you consume. Unfortunately, some types of food can cause your child’s teeth to decay much quicker, and consuming too much of these foods and not practicing good dental hygiene habits will ultimately lead to tooth decay. Teeth decay generally happens because of the following foods and drinks:

Sugary Snacks And Drinks

Sugary snacks and drinks, such as hard and sticky candy, soda, and fruit juice, all contribute to tooth decay. Sugary food and drinks contain bacteria that produce cavity-causing acids in your mouth. When these acids are produced, they break down the protective coating of the enamel on your teeth. Unfortunately, when you lose that enamel, your teeth become susceptible to cavities. 

Starches And Carbs 

Many might find it surprising that starchy foods like bread, chips, and crackers can also lead to cavities. When these foods break down, they release sugars that the bacteria in your mouth feed on. When this happens, cavity-causing acids are produced, and enamel begins to erode.

What Happens If A Child Has Tooth Decay?

If your child is already showing signs of tooth decay, there are some actions you can take to help minimize the damage. For starters, you should visit your child’s dentist so that they can undergo a full dental exam. 

A dentist can pinpoint existing issues, including where the cavity is, if any additional cavities have been discovered, and what your kid’s cavity treatment plan should look like. 

If a cavity is discovered, the typical treatment is to have a filling done. A filling is when the cavity, or the infected portion of the tooth, is removed, and a composite is used to fill the hole. This helps to stop the spread of the infection so that other teeth are not impacted. An experienced dentist will provide additional guidance as far as treatment plans go. 

How Common Is Tooth Decay In Kids?

Unfortunately, tooth decay rates among children are incredibly common. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that among children aged 6 to 8 years old, over half (52%) have experienced a cavity in their baby teeth. 

Children who come from low-income families are nearly twice as likely to have untreated cavities as compared to children from higher-income families. Additionally, over half (57%) of adolescents aged 12 to 19 have had a cavity in their adult teeth. 

Practice these healthy habits with your children to reinforce good dental hygiene and limit the risk of tooth decay:

  • Incorporate fluoride toothpaste into your child’s dental routine
  • Prevent tooth decay by avoiding sugary, sticky snacks and drinks. If these foods are consumed, be sure to brush your child’s teeth so that bacteria build-up does not erode your child’s enamel. 
  • Floss your child’s teeth each day to ensure that food is not stuck in between their teeth
  • Brushing your child’s teeth with the right toothbrush also matters. Use a toothbrush that fits comfortably in your child’s mouth and has bristles that can reach all surfaces of the teeth. Be sure to swap out your child’s toothbrush at least once a month to ensure no bacteria build up on the brush gets transferred onto their teeth. 

Protect Your Child’s Teeth At Absolute Dental

A pediatric dentist smiling with a woman and her son.

Work with the team at Absolute Dental and help your child develop strong oral hygiene habits that will keep their teeth as strong as possible. If you suspect your child has signs of tooth decay, our kid cavity treatment options are designed to help your child feel comfortable so they get the dental care they need. 

Schedule your child’s appointment with our team today to learn about our fun dental care routines that will empower your child to have strong oral hygiene habits that keep tooth decay at bay.


Cavities. (2024). 

Sugars and tooth decay. (2024).  

Tooth Enamel. (2024). 

About the Author

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Dr. Joan Landron

Currently serving the community at Absolute Dental since August 2008, Dr. Joan Landron graduated from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1997.

She further honed her skills with a general practice residency at Metropolitan Hospital and underwent specialized training at New York University’s Implant Program for General Practitioners. Specializing in services such as X-rays, examinations, cleanings, crowns, and more, Dr. Landron brings a comprehensive approach to general and cosmetic dentistry, including implants.

A proud member of the American Dental Association, Nevada Dental Association, and Southern Nevada Dental Association, she cherishes her free time by spending moments with family, reading, and maintaining her health through exercise. Dr. Landron takes immense pride in being a part of the Absolute Dental team and is dedicated to her patients at the Absolute Dental – Nellis in Las Vegas, ensuring they receive the best care possible.

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