What Do Dental Caries Look Like?

Dear Dr. Ellie,

I am a parent of a 2-year-old son. How can I tell if he is getting a cavity? Is there any way to tell before the dentist does x-rays and wants to do fillings?

– B

Dear B,

It is great that you are concerned about Early Childhood Caries (ECC), which is unfortunately all to common. The first sign of dental caries is a small white spot on the enamel surface of the tooth. This is sometimes easy to see and on a front tooth. These are white, wavy lines or spots, close to the gum line. This is actually indicative of damage done by bacterial acid, and are seen before the cavity appears. If you lift your son’s lip, you may see the lines this is the early indicator of the caries disease.

These white spots can actually be reversed, (remineralized) by the application of fluoride if the problem is recognized early enough, and/ or with the use of a Xylitol product, such as Zellies.

Cavities will often be visible holes in the enamel, and appear brown, or black.

I hope this answers your question. If you have any others, please feel free to contact me.

Ellie Phillips, DDS

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