The Best (and Worst!) Ways to Treat a Child’s Cavity

As hard as you try to encourage diligent oral habits at home, your child may still develop a cavity.

How should you respond when the signs of a cavity become clear?

There’s only one clear answer: make an appointment with your child’s pediatric dentist.

Pediatric dentists specialize in dentistry procedures best suited for children. They use treatments, tools, and techniques that solve dental issues without pain, fear, or discomfort. This is especially true when it comes to treating a child’s cavity.

Make sure you understand the best and worst ways to treat a child’s cavity so that you can give your youngster an enjoyable and successful dental experience.

What Causes Cavities?

Cavities develop in your child’s mouth when bacteria, acid, and sugar spend too much time on the teeth. They blend to create plaque and tartar, which eat away at the white enamel of the teeth. Over time, tiny holes develop that turn into larger cavities.

If left untreated, the hole of decay becomes more severe, eventually causing infection and tooth loss. This is why it’s so important to treat cavities as soon as they’re identified. The recent FDA approval of silver diamine fluoride makes it easier than ever before to quickly and effectively treat your child’s cavities and get back to your normal routine.

The Best Treatments to Prevent Cavities

The best treatment is prevention, right? Strategic preventative measures may be enough to stop cavities from forming in your child’s mouth altogether! Sealants and fluoride treatment are the easiest and fastest options.


A dental sealant is one of the easiest and most effective measures in preventative dentistry, especially for children!

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings applied to the back molars. Since most food is chewed with the back molars, sealants cover those chewing surfaces and make it difficult for sugar, bacteria, and small food pieces to sneak into the tiny cracks and crevices of the molars. You can think of sealants like tight, durable raincoats that keep the teeth protected from oral debris.

Believe it or not, this simple layer of dental plastic is proven to reduce the risk of decay up to 80% in back molars. Since the dental sealant application process is quick, simple, and virtually painless, sealants are one of the best investments you can make in your child’s oral health.


Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral known to prevent cavities and decay. Many public water sources add fluoride to give teeth an added layer of protection, but it’s important to also receive a professional fluoride treatment every three, six, or 12 months based on your child’s oral health and susceptibility to dental decay.

This is why the team at All Smiles offers fluoride treatments for children: to support healthy tooth enamel and fight cavity-causing bacteria.

The Best Ways to Treat Cavities in Children

As an adult, you know exactly how your cavities have been treated in the past, and it probably wasn’t very fun.

That’s why pediatric dentists like All Smiles Children’s Dentistry strive to use the least invasive method first: Silver diamine fluoride.

Silver Diamine Fluoride

Silver diamine fluoride (SDF) is a topical liquid used to treat cavities. It’s formulated with silver, water, fluoride, and ammonia. SDF is used on decaying or high-risk teeth to prevent and block the spread of cavities.

SDF is often compared to the fluoride varnish applied to healthy teeth at the end of a child’s dentist exam. However, SDF is twice as strong as standard fluoride varnish. Its higher potency is essential to stop decay in its tracks. Each ingredient plays an important role:

  • Silver ions act as antimicrobial agents to displace bacteria and pathogens responsible for the decay.

  • Ammonia increases concentration.

  • Fluoride prevents the development of decay.

SDF has been used in Japan for more than 80 years, but it was only recently approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration in 2014. As a parent, you’ve probably never been treated with SDF, but it could prove very valuable for your child’s oral health.

SDF offers a safe, painless, and simple alternative to drilling, so it’s perfect for children of all ages. Consider these benefits of silver diamine fluoride:

  • Kills bacteria known to eat away at tooth surfaces

  • Blocks cavity-causing bacteria from spreading

  • Provides a comfortable, less frightening alternative to dental drills

In fact, hundreds of case studies prove that SDF is a safe and effective treatment. It even allows dentists to treat cavities in children with severe dental anxiety, young patients who cannot undergo standard cavity treatment with a drill, and children at very high risk of aggressive dental decay.

The California Dental Association (CDA) agrees that SDF is “is particularly useful for providing dental care to individuals who present challenges to receiving traditional treatment because of their age, behavioral issues, or medical conditions.”

The Worst Way to Treat a Child’s Cavity

Imagine bringing your four-year-old to a traditional dentist. She lays down in the chair and watches as the dentist prepares to place a drill into her mouth. If she’s like most four-year-olds, she won’t sit quietly; she’ll scream, cry, or jump out of the chair altogether.

That’s why drills and shots of novocaine create the worst way to treat a child’s cavity.

Shots of novocaine block the sensation of pain, but they also make the entire treated area feel numb, which could scare a child just as much as the pain itself. Drills, of course, are noisy and invasive, so they’re definitely not suited for a child’s cavity treatment.

We Treat a Child’s Cavity the Best Way

Don’t settle for just “any” dentist to handle your child’s cavity. Make sure you turn to an experienced pediatric dentist like Dr. Houri at All Smiles Children’s Dentistry in Vista, CA. 

Dr. Houri specializes in the use of SDF to treat cavities and knows exactly how to stop decay before it gets worse. Call Dr. Houri and her team today at (760) 734-4400 to learn more and schedule an appointment.

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