Pitted Teeth in Children: Causes and Treatments

When children have pitted teeth, it affects the function of their mouth and their quality of life. Discover the causes and treatment.
Pitted Teeth in Children: Causes and Treatments

Last update: 02 August, 2022

Pitted teeth represent a fairly common situation in children. We’re talking about the staining and destruction of teeth caused by tooth decay, one of the most common preventable diseases in the world.

When children’s teeth become darkened or broken due to decay, the negative consequences impact their daily lives. They affect chewing, eating, speech, self-esteem, and social relationships, as children often feel embarrassed or teased because of the appearance of their smile.

Keep reading and find out what are the causes of pitted teeth in children and how this problem is treated.

The causes of pitted teeth in children

As already mentioned, when we talk about pitted teeth, we’re referring to the presence of cavities in children’s teeth. This disease can develop in both baby teeth and permanent teeth.

Cavities are caused by the loss of the mineral components of the teeth. This results from the action of acids produced by bacteria in the mouth as they metabolize dietary carbohydrates.

When the loss of hard dental tissues progresses without treatment, the surfaces of the teeth darken and break down. And this results in the appearance of pitted teeth in children, which is nothing more than an advanced stage of tooth decay.

For this destruction to occur, certain conditions must exist in the child’s mouth, which contribute to the loss of minerals from the teeth:

  1. Bacterial plaque is a clear or whitish sticky film that adheres to tooth and mouth surfaces. It is made up of bacteria and food debris. If it’s not properly removed by oral hygiene, it accumulates.
  2. Cariogenic diet: excessive consumption of sugary, ultra-processed foods and carbonated beverages increase the number of bacteria in the mouth and increase oral acidity.
  3. Conditions of the child: the dental anatomy, the arrangement of the teeth, or the lower production of saliva are some of the individual factors that can favor the accumulation of bacteria and the appearance of cavities.
  4. Lack of knowledge: parents’ lack of information about the causes of this disease, good hygiene habits, and ways to prevent it are very important aspects for the development of the problem.
A little girl with cavities biting into a gummy candy.
Candy is delicious, but it should be offered in moderation and you should ensure proper oral hygiene after consumption.

Symptoms that accompany pitted teeth

We already told you that, when we talk about pitted teeth in children, we’re referring to the stains and gaps caused by cavities. When this loss of minerals on tooth surfaces is left untreated, it progresses to deeper areas.

Therefore, pitted teeth can be seen as brown or black spots on the teeth and then as gaps or cavities. These retain more bacteria and food debris, which accelerates the destructive process.

When cavities affect the dentin and pulp, the child may experience pain or sensitivity when chewing or eating cold, hot, or sweet foods.

If the process isn’t stopped, complications can also develop, such as dental infections and partial or total loss of the tooth.

Treatments for pitted teeth

To detect and treat pitted teeth in children, it’s very important to visit a pediatric dentist regularly. During regular check-ups, the professional can diagnose the problem in time, slow down its progress, and avoid the complications mentioned above.

When cavities affect the teeth, the dentist will choose the best treatment to slow down its progress and reverse the damage, depending on each case. The strategy depends on the type of dentition affected, the extent of the lesion, and the particularities of the infant.

  • When cavities are located on the enamel and dentin, the dentist removes the damaged tissues mechanically. Then, he fills the cavity with a special material, such as a filling. In cases of severe destruction, a crown may be necessary.
  • If the destruction has affected the inside of the tooth, there’s infection, or the destruction is very severe, the dentist evaluates the convenience of preserving or eliminating the affected piece.
  • If it’s a baby tooth, the time remaining for tooth replacement is considered. Therefore, endodontics or extraction and placement of a space maintainer until the definitive tooth emerges may be chosen.
  • In permanent teeth, preservation of the element is usually preferred. In these cases, endodontic treatment is used, with different materials depending on the degree of root formation.

Getting ahead of the problem

In all those cases in which cavities haven’t occurred, visiting the dentist is also important. The dentist can detect those factors that favor its appearance and provide parents with the necessary advice to avoid the problem.

“Dental cavities in childhood are preventable and almost all risk factors can be modified.”

-World Health Organization (WHO)-.

In addition, the specialist can also offer some preventive treatments, such as sealants, fluoride topications, or address dental malpositions that retain bacteria.

A father and daughter brushing their teeth together in front of the mirror.
Motivating your child to practice healthy habits, such as healthy eating and practicing proper oral hygiene, is always the best care strategy.

What happens if decayed teeth in children aren’t treated?

Decayed teeth in children don’t stop on their own and don’t recover naturally. When cavities are left untreated, the infectious process progresses and increasingly destroys the tooth element. But it also affects nearby tissues and increases the risk of complicating the situation with other more serious diseases.

Pain is a very annoying situation that usually appears when cavities are deep and prevents children from eating and resting properly. In addition, their games and daily activities are interrupted by the discomfort and they tend to miss school frequently because of this problem.

Infection is another frequent complication that can originate from pitted teeth in children. This can lead to more serious conditions, such as cellulitis or the spread of infection to other parts of the body. Likewise, when cavities affect the milk teeth, the picture can interfere with the correct development of the permanent elements that are in formation.

And of course, massive destruction of the teeth leads to the loss of the affected pieces. This deteriorates the appearance of the smile and interferes with the functions of the mouth. In addition, it causes the movement of other dental elements that will occupy this lost space and favor dental malpositions.

For all these reasons, treating pitted teeth in children as soon as they’re detected is a priority in children’s oral health. The sooner the situation is reversed, the simpler the treatment will be and the more complications are avoided.

The prevention of pitted teeth in children

Cavities are a disease that’s preventable with simple but consistent practices. Combining a healthy diet with proper oral hygiene from an early age is the key to preventing them.

Eating a varied and healthy diet, as well as avoiding foods rich in sugar, helps to take care of teeth. Brushing children’s teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing prevents the accumulation of harmful bacteria.

Visiting the pediatric dentist every 6 months completes the care of the mouth, as they’re an ally that helps maintain the oral health of little ones.

Remember: Pitted teeth in children can be avoided. Helping your little ones to incorporate healthy habits will give them a healthy smile and a way of life that will benefit them forever.

It might interest you...
Most Common Dental Problems in Children
You are Mom
Read it in You are Mom
Most Common Dental Problems in Children

Dental problems in children can appear at an early age and cause a great deal of discomfort. Here we'll explain the most frequent ones.



  • Echeverria-López, S., Henríquez-D’Aquino, E., Werlinger-Cruces, F., Villarroel-Díaz, T., & Lanas-Soza, M. (2020). Determinantes de caries temprana de la infancia en niños en riesgo social. International journal of interdisciplinary dentistry13(1), 26-29.
  • Cabrera Escobar, D., López García, F., Ferrer Hurtado, O., Tellería Castellanos, A. M., & Calá Domínguez, T. (2018). Factores de riesgo de caries dental en niños de la infancia temprana. Paulo VI. Venezuela. 2012. Revista Médica Electrónica40(4), 958-967.
  • Cruz Maldonado, D. M. (2022). Hábitos alimenticios y su relación con la caries dental en niños de 0 a 14 años. Revisión de la literatura (Doctoral dissertation, Quito: Universidad de Los Hemisferios 2022).
  • Nasco Hidal, N., Gispert Abreu, E. D. L. A., Roche Martinez, A., Alfaro Mon, M., & Pupo Tiguero, R. J. (2013). Factores de riesgo en lesiones incipientes de caries dental en niños. Revista Cubana de estomatología50(2), 0-0.
  • Pitts, N., Baez, R., & Diaz-Guallory, C. (2020). Caries de la primera infancia: La Declaración de Bangkok del IAPD. REVISTA ODONTOLOGÍA PEDIÁTRICA19(1), 45-48.
  • Sánchez-Pérez, L., Sáenz Martínez, L. P., Molina-Frechero, N., Irigoyen-Camacho, M. E., & Alfaro-Moctezuma, P. (2018). Riesgo a caries. Diagnóstico y sugerencias de tratamiento. Revista ADM75(6).
  • Zambrano Hidalgo, M. J. (2021). Caries de la infancia temprana: prevención y tratamientos: Revisión sistemática.
  • Córdova Aguilera, D. N. (2021). Caries de biberón, prevención y tratamiento (Bachelor’s thesis, Universidad de Guayaquil. Facultad Piloto de Odontología).