While the layperson cannot diagnose a cavity, there are many signs which can indicate its presence. It's important for you to be aware of such signs if you have children. Since children's fine motor skills are still developing, they may not be able to brush and floss as well as they should. Here are some symptoms of cavities to be aware of.
Medical conditions, certain foods, certain medications, etc. can cause halitosis—or bad breath. It's a good idea to rule out other issues before assuming it's a cavity. For instance, your child may have a candida, a yeast infection in the oral cavity. Have your child brush his or her tongue regularly with a toothbrush or tongue cleaner. Simply cleaning the tongue better could alleviate the problem. If your child continues to have bad breath and less saliva flow even with good brushing habits, then it could be a sign of a cavity.
Like bad breath, discoloration can be caused by all sorts of issues, so be sure to rule out other issues first. For example, fluorosis, an innocuous dental problem caused by too much fluoride, simply causes white, gray, or brown stains. If your child had an infection and needed antibiotics, these can also sometimes stain the teeth. If you can't rule out other issues, you should see a dentist.
Change in Texture
If your child brushes his or her tongue over teeth and says they feel different or weird, you may want to take a look. Sometimes you can actually see small holes that could indicate a cavity. In fact, when you take your child to the dentist, one of the first things the dentist will use to check teeth for cavities is an instrument called a dental explorer. Since cavities are more porous and softer than enamel, they can press down with the dental explorer and feel for cavities.
Cavities can sometimes cause strange tastes in the mouth. If your child is already a picky eater, check to see if he or she is having taste problems with foods he or she usually likes. If your child already has fillings, a recurring cavity in a filling can sometimes cause a metallic taste as the restoration breaks down. If they continue to forgo foods they used to like, take your child to the dentist.
If your child's mouth has pus or he or she is in any pain, don't wait for other symptoms to appear; visit a family dentist ASAP! Pus and/or pain is indicative of not only cavities, but serious infections called abscesses. You want to make sure this infection doesn't spread from the oral cavity to the rest of the body.