Decay in baby teeth is a common issue.

You are not alone if you have a child who has a cavity. (And you probably couldn’t have done anything more to prevent it!) Decay in baby teeth is so common it has its own nickname (baby bottle tooth decay, in case you’re wondering).

You are definitely not the first parent with a rough and tumble toddler with a chipped tooth, either.

And you, the parent wishing your child had inherited anything other than your issue with overcrowded teeth, give yourself a break. Most kids need early orthodontic intervention for one reason or another. Focus instead on the good things they inherited, like their ability to hit your buttons in point-three-seconds flat. Oh, wait. Maybe that isn’t the thing you should focus on.

Their health is in your hands, and you’re taking it seriously. So let’s answer some of those dental questions you have about your child’s teeth.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child’s health?

Baby teeth are way more important than they seem. They help kids with all sorts of things developmentally, from speaking properly to learning to self-feed to helping permanent teeth come in properly. It’s vital to keep baby teeth healthy and intact.

If your child has a cavity in a baby tooth, a filling will help protect them from toothaches, further decay that could result in early loss of that tooth, and infection.

How safe are dental X-rays really?

Really, dental X-rays are safe. But we understand why that would be a question on your mind. Less is always more when it comes to radiation, which is why we limit the number of X-rays we take as part of your child’s routine checkup, and we only perform those X-rays once a year. If you bring your child in for a specific issue, we take an X-ray of the affected area, not of the entire mouth.

Decay in baby teeth can sometimes only be spotted with an X-ray. X-rays are a vital tool in diagnosing dental decay before it can cause serious issues such as an infection.

Is thumb-sucking or finger-sucking going to ruin my child’s teeth?

The answer is: it depends. How old is your child? If your child is still an infant, then relax and enjoy the adorable sight of your baby with a thumb in their mouth as they drift off to sleep.

If your child is age three or older, it may be time to start discouraging the self-soothing technique and encouraging other soothing habits. It can be tough, but look for gentle techniques that encourage replacing a completely normal, natural behavior with another one. You’ll know when you find the one that’s right for you.

Pro tip: Don’t replace that thumb with a bottle. It can quickly lead to decay in baby teeth.

Is pacifier use going to mean my child will need orthodontic treatment?

The answer is the same for thumb-sucking. An infant and toddler will have no long-term effects from pacifier use, other than hopefully a love for sleeping through the night. So enjoy that soother now!

How can I prevent decay in baby teeth from nursing and bottle-feeding?

When you’ve finished feeding your baby, wipe down their gums with a soft, damp cloth. If they have teeth, use a soft-bristled toothbrush. No toothpaste is necessary for infants!

You’ve heard from many of the experts that you shouldn’t be nursing or bottle-feeding your child to sleep. But we understand sometimes it happens anyway, especially in the newborn stage. So try to not stress too much if you’d rather let sleeping babies sleep once or twice a week than wipe down their gums. Be as diligent as possible during waking hours.

When should I first take my child to the dentist?

Were you wondering why putting your newborn child on your dental health insurance plan is even an option? They don’t have any teeth. Why do they need dental insurance, right?

The reason for this is because your child should see the dentist at least once in their first year. The recommendation is that your child see the dentist within six months of the eruption of their first tooth or by their first birthday. While your infant’s appointment will be quick, it’s important to start early so your child can view going to the dentist as a normal, healthy event not to be feared.

My toddler has a cavity. Now what?

Come see us, of course. We’ll clean the tooth and take a look, perhaps take an X-ray for a better look at the extent of the issue. In most cases, we can use composite resin to create a tooth-colored filling and prevent further decay. In other instances where there is more severe decay or a cavity in a place where a filling may be less effective, Dr. Jaynes may recommend a crown.

Also, try not to blame yourself or your child for their cavity. The most important part is moving forward and doing exactly what you’re doing right now (learning more and seeking dental intervention).

How do dental sealants work?

Did you know teeth bend and flex while you chew? They do, and the result is that little bits of food can become stuck in the chewing surfaces of your child’s teeth.

Dental sealants add a layer of protection to prevent this. Sealants are especially helpful for a child’s teeth that have very steep “hills and valleys” in the chewing crevices.

We are happy to answer all your questions about your child’s teeth.

We’re a pediatric dental practice. Caring for kids and answering their parents’ questions is precisely what we do all day, every day—and we love doing it. Those were some of the most common questions we hear, but there are plenty more concerns parents regularly have. You are doing a good job, and we love working with parents who are involved in their child’s care.

We look forward to seeing you at your child’s next appointment. Request one online right now.