toddler tooth decay

Oral hygiene is very important from an early age: Did you know that toddler tooth decay is a thing? Well, it is!

As soon as your little one has teeth, they are at risk of suffering from tooth decay if their oral hygiene is not correct – and even if their diet is healthy, there are many substances that contain sugar and that can contribute to the appearance of cavities and other teeth problems: breast and formula milk contain sugar, and so do cow’s milk and juices – basics in the diet of any toddler!

Let’s take a closer look at the causes and the symptoms of toddler tooth decay: it’s important to be familiar with the problem in order to prevent it!

What causes toddler tooth decay? 

Tooth decay in toddlers is also known as baby bottle tooth decay – and that gives you quite an important clue on one of the causes! In fact, the main cause of tooth decay in toddlers is sweetened liquids clinging to the teeth for too long: there are plenty of bacteria in our little ones’ mouths, which make sugars and acids hurt the baby teeth.

Toddler tooth decay is caused by poor oral hygiene, an excess of sugar in the diet and bad habits, such as going to bed with the baby bottle or dipping the dummy in sugar or honey. As you can see, all these causes can easily be prevented with care and good habits!


Toddler tooth decay: Watching out for the symptoms

In order to detect toddler tooth decay soon enough so there is time to do something about it, it’s important to be aware of the most common symptoms.

These are the main signs of tooth decay in toddlers:

  • Bad breath: poor oral hygiene and cavities can cause bad breath, so if your toddler’s breath isn’t as nice as it should, take him to the dentist just in case.

  • White or brown spots: if you see spots on your toddler’s teeth, first white, and then a light brown, beware! Check your son or daughter’s teeth carefully for brownish spots – they could be cavities!

  • Sensitivity: If your little one complains with cold, hot or sugary foods, it may be a sign of tooth decay.

However, keep in mind that the symptoms of tooth decay, both in children and adults, can be very different: There are people who never feel anything different until the cavity is too big. The best solution to avoid the 'toddlers and cavities' combo is to take your child to the dentist regularly.

Toddler tooth decay: Preventing it & treating it 

The most important thing to take into account to prevent toddler tooth decay is, of course, keeping good oral hygiene. Make sure to:

  • Already in the baby phase, gently wipe their gums with a wet cloth after each feeding. Whenever the first teeth come in, start brushing his teeth with a special toothbrush. Ask the dentist before, but as soon as your toddler has a complete set of teeth, you can start flossing as well.

  • Fluoride is important! Ask your doctor or your dentist whether you need to give him a supplement, and make sure you pick a toothpaste that contains enough of it.

  • Don’t give soft drinks to your toddler. Besides not being healthy, they contain lots of sugars that could damage his teeth.

  • Make sure your little one eats healthily: too much sugars in his diet could also cause toddler tooth decay.

  • Take him to the dentist regularly: It is recommended that you start taking your child to the dentist when he’s one year old or six months before the sprouting of the first tooth, whichever comes first!

  • Teach him how to drink from a cup: the sooner he learns, the better!

Don’t dip your toddler’s dummy into sugar nor syrup: it may help him sleep, but that’s not healthy and can provoke tooth decay. Letting him sleep while drinking milk from the baby bottle could have the same effect, so now that he’s not a baby anymore, make sure he’s wide awake until he finishes it and then brush his teeth before putting him to bed.

But what if we’re late for the prevention and our little one is already suffering from tooth decay? In that case, you will need to take your toddler to the dentist as soon as possible, so he or she can provide a solution, like small fillings for cavities or even full crowns if the cavities are too big.


Baby teeth will fall out, but that doesn’t mean they’re not important: they set the bases for the permanent teeth in their gums! If toddler tooth decay is generalised, it could result in an infection – your child could even need to have several teeth removed, which will most likely affect the way his adult teeth come in.


Need help? Ask other mummies in CaptainMums' forum!


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