How dentist fix cavities

This is What Happens When Dentist Fix Cavities … So You Can Relax

So, you recently took your child to the dentist and were told that your little one has a cavity.  First, know that you are still an awesome mom.  

Guess what? I am a dentist and my child managed to get a cavity!  That’s another story for another day.

I say that so that you will not beat yourself up about this cavity (or cavities) your child has.  It happens.

Just know that it can be fixed and can be prevented in the future.  I know you and your child may be wondering how does the dentist actually fix cavities?

Great question.  I am going to give you a simplified explanation and help you on how to prepare your child.

this is what happens when dentist fix cavities so that you can relax

Depending on how big the cavity gets on a tooth determines if a tooth will need a filling or a cap.  For the sake of keeping things simple, I will focus on how dentist take care of cavities with a filling.

So your child will have questions and may ask why they have to return to the dentist so soon.  Especially since they just cleaned and counted their teeth.  

Remember when talking to kids about the dentist ... keep it simple. Don't use language that will cause your child to be fearful or think pain is involved.Click To Tweet

Always, always, always keep things simple with little ones under the age of about 8.  

The more you try to explain things the more their minds go and the likely hood that you say something that may scare them increases as well.  

Simple verbiage you can use to tell your child about going back to the dentist:

“We need to come back because there is a sick tooth. Put sleepy juice to make the tooth fall asleep, fix the tooth, then the tooth wakes up and is all better.”

Get the tooth sleepy

This is the truth in a very simple, child version.  What actually happens is the dentist will get your child’s mouth numb or “sleepy.” 

This is usually necessary to ensure that your child is comfortable with the next steps and doesn’t feel any pain.

Once your child has had enough time to allow the “medicine” or local anesthesia to work, the dentist will clean out the decay (or “remove the sugar bugs”) on the tooth with a handpiece.  

Clean out the cavity bugs with the pressure washer

The handpiece usually sprays water on the tooth to prevent the tooth from overheating (as the bur or the attachment on the handpiece is moving very fast) and to help wash away the decay on the tooth.  

'The dentist will use lots of water to wash the cavity bugs out' is a good way of explaining how the dentist will fix a cavity to a young child.Click To Tweet


kid at the dentist

The dentist or the staff may explain to your child that the handpiece is a pressure washer, water gun or water sprayer depending on the vocabulary they use.  

Something along those lines to help your child understand that there is going to be a lot of water sprayed on the tooth.

Clean and prepare

Next, the dentist will go through a series of steps of placing the filling.  

This may involve placing a “tooth ring” on to help with the contours of the filling.  This helps make the tooth round like how it would be naturally.  

There will be different solutions that will be put on the tooth to clean and prepare the tooth for the filling.

kid at the dentist

Usually, there is a blue light that is used in this series of steps.  This is a curing light.  

This light makes the filling material hard so that your child can get back to their normal routine with eating and chewing as soon as the filling is placed.

Final step

The dentist will do a final polish to get the tooth nice and smooth.  Then it’s all over.  Easy day!

Before you get in a hurry because you are so excited, let’s go over a few precautions since your little one is still numb.

Things to keep in mind after the visit

At the end of the visit, Your child will be numb. Be careful that your little one does not chew their lip or tongue.  

No chewing

Many times kids think it is fun to chew on their lip and tongue because it feels funny.  

Trust me, it is not funny when the numbness wears off and the area they have been chewing on is hurting!  

Make sure to keep an eye on your child while their lip and/or tongue is numb.

When their mouth starts to “wake up”

When the area starts to wake up kids complain that it hurts because of the sensation they feel.  Don’t be alarmed.  

As the area starts to “wake up” they will have a tingling sensation that is pretty uncomfortable.  Reassure your child that it is going away and will start to feel better in a few minutes.

After being numb, your child's lip wakes up and it can be pretty uncomfortable. Kids may describe to you pain when actuality their lip is starting to wake up.Click To Tweet

kid at the dentist

What to eat afterward

Stick with a soft diet until the numbness wears off. It can take 1-2 hours before it wears off.  

Preferred foods during the time that your child is numb include, but not limited to yogurt, ice cream, mashed potatoes, bread.

If your child complains of pain try this

Typically there is no pain or discomfort after a filling is placed. If there is, you can give your child Tylenol or Motrin.

kid at the dentist

Hopefully, you see that it is pretty easy and not bad at all.  

Remember to keep conversations and explanations short.  

I know that you are only trying to help, but the more you talk the more likely you may talk your child out of thinking that the dentist is actually going to fix their tooth.  

Reassure your child that the dentist and the staff will take care of them.  Then let the dentist and the staff work their magic.  

Now you know what is going on when they are fixing your child’s tooth.  So relax.  It’s going to be an easy day!

With lots of love,

Dr Toni  



  1. Rachel

    What do you reccomend the best way to fill a 4 year olds 7 cavities! My son had about that many at 5 as well and I marinated, papoosed and filled and I have sooo much anxiety about doing that to my daughter, we don’t treat our prisoners that way!

    1. I highly recommend you highly recommend your child see a pediatric dentist. As much as I love seeing kids as a general dentist, a pediatric dentist can provide different options for completing their treatment in a child friendly atmosphere. If you have tried a pediatric dentist and didn’t like the experience, as around for recommendations because there are some amazing pediatric dentist that can make your child’s visit awesome.

  2. Amanda

    This is really timely… I have to take my 2 daughter’s to the dentist next Tuesday to begin some work (cavities) that need done. I have no idea why these little ones are having issues with their teeth and my son is unaffected! It’s so weird! They drink water, milk and on special occasions I’ll treat them to a happy meal or whatever and they are allowed sprite or lemonade. I’m a little nervous about the numbing process. My girls are 7 and 9. I think we are going to opt in for laughing gas… Do you think that children my kids age should go to a pediatric dentist or a regular dentist? I’m conflicted on this topic. Thanks! :):)

    1. I am so happy to hear that! You know what … I have heard that story so many times. There is always one sibling that seems to be more prone to cavities and then another sibling barely brushes their teeth and never gets a cavity. My thoughts are a lot of it has to do with the bacteria inside of the mouth. Just like you hear about probiotics and having good bacteria … there is a similar environment in the mouth. I am hoping that in the next few years there will be advancements in this area to help identify individuals that are more prone and then treatment to help counteract it. For now, continue staying on top of your daughter like you have been with brushing and incorporate a mouth rinse like ACT for kids is best.

      The laughing gas can be pretty helpful for the kids and the dentist. The laughing gas helps to relax kids which in turn gives the dentist more time to work with a calm, still child. If your kids do well with the dentist, they can stay with their regular dentist. If they begin to develop fears or you have other concerns about their teeth, it is totally fine to take them to a pediatric dentist at this age. I had a friend that went to a pediatric dentist until she was 19. The dentist had to kids kick her out and tell her that she needs to graduate to the big girl dentist. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by!

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