Your child’s baby teeth are more important than you may think – despite the common disbelief that they don’t matter as much as they are not permanent. But this could not be more untrue. Kids usually get their first baby tooth when they’re around one year old, and they don’t lose their last baby tooth until they’re 12 to 13 years old. While your child may not keep their baby teeth for a lifetime, they are an important part of their mouth.

That means, that for more than a decade, your child’s baby teeth will be helping them eat, chew and speak. Looking after their teeth and keeping their smile in great shape is essential for not only their oral health, but their overall health and well-being.

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Why is it so important to look after your child’s baby teeth?

If one of your child’s teeth becomes damaged due to decay, dental trauma or any other issue, it’s necessary to visit an experienced pediatric dentist. So, why is this so essential for treating decayed or damaged baby teeth? Here are just a few reasons:

  • To eliminate pain and discomfort: we all know how unpleasant toothache can be. This pain can be very difficult for a young child to deal with, and not getting appropriate treatment will only make it worse.
  • To enable eating and speaking: if your child is losing one or more of their baby teeth prematurely, or if it’s teeth are causing them pain they may have problems chewing properly. This may lead to them not getting proper nutrition as they grow.
  • To prevent future complications: the sooner you will seek dental help for your child, the better the outcome will be. Early treatment may eliminate the need for more extensive intervention in the future, like a root canal treatment or a dental crown.

Tooth decay in children

The most common dental problem in children is tooth decay. In addition, a child’s primary (baby) teeth are usually weaker and more prone to cavities than adults. It is therefore extremely important to make sure your children learn how to look after their teeth and gums from an early age.

Children’s tooth decay is mainly caused by dental plaque that remains on teeth after eating sugars and starches and drinking sugary drinks. As a result, bacteria in their mouths react with those sugars producing acid that wears away the enamel. What’s also worrying, baby bottles and on-demand breastfeeding are leading causes of dental decay among very young children.

Stages of tooth decay

Dental plaque is a colorless, sticky film that covers the surfaces of the teeth. It is made of food particles, bacteria and saliva. If your child’s teeth aren’t cleaned regularly, plaque begins to build up and it hardens over time forming tartar. Tartar protects bacteria and makes it more difficult to remove it.

There’s six stages of tooth decay:

Stage 1: Initial demineralization (white spots)

The outer layer of our teeth is composed of enamel. It is the hardest tissue in your body and is mostly made up of minerals. As a tooth is exposed to acids produced by plaque bacteria, the enamel begins to lose these minerals. When this occurs, you may notice white spots appear on one of your child’s teeth. This area of mineral loss is an initial sign of tooth decay.

Stage 2: Enamel decay

If the process of tooth decay is allowed to continue, enamel will break down further. You may notice that a white spot on a tooth darkens and changes its color to brownish. As enamel is weakened, small holes in the teeth called cavities form (also called caries). Cavities need to be filled by the dentist.

Stage 3: Dentin decay

Dentin is the tissue that lies under the enamel. It’s much softer and more sensitive than enamel, and therefore easier to get damaged from acid. Because of this, at this stage tooth decay proceeds at a faster rate. What’s more, dentin connects to the nerves of the tooth through tubes. As a result, if dentin is affected by tooth decay, teeth start to become more sensitive, particularly when having hot or cold foods or drinks.

Stage 4: Pulp damage

The pulp is the innermost layer of our teeth. It contains the nerves and blood vessels that help to keep the tooth healthy and also provide sensation to our teeth. When pulp becomes damaged or infected, it then becomes irritated and starts to swell. This puts pressure on the nerves, which leads to pain.

Stage 5: Abscess

As tooth decay advances into the pulp, bacteria invades causing an infection. Increased inflammation in the tooth leads to a pocket of pus forming at the bottom of your tooth, called an abscess. Tooth abscesses can cause severe pain that may radiate into the jaw. Other symptoms that may be present include swelling of the gums, face or jaw, swollen lymph nodes and fever. A tooth abscess requires immediate treatment, as the infection can easily spread into the bones of your jaw as well as other areas of your head and neck. Sometimes, the only solution may be to remove the infected tooth.

‍What can be done to prevent tooth decay in children

Children who have cavities in their baby teeth are more likely to develop cavities in their adult teeth. You can help your child avoid tooth decay by promoting these good dental hygiene and lifestyle habits:

  • teach your child to brush their teeth twice each day with a toothpaste containing fluoride. But remember, a pea-sized amount of toothpaste is sufficient
  • practice flossing with older children. The more food residue is cleaned from the space in-between the the, the better for your child’s oral health
  • provide your child with healthy, balanced meals and snacks that don’t contain too much added sugar. And teach your child to drink water instead of juice or other high-sugar drinks
  • do not allow your child to fall asleep with a bottle or sippy cup of milk or juice
  • make sure to take your child for dental check-us regularly, its best to do it every 6 months
  • aks your child’s dentist about fluoride treatments or dental sealants that may help provide additional barrier of protection on baby teeth

What to do if you think your child’s baby teeth started to decay

If your child has tooth pain and is exhibiting signs of decay, schedule an appointment with our pediatric dentist. Dental problems become more severe over time when decayed teeth are left untreated, and treatment becomes more complex and costly as time goes on.


”Współczesna stomatologia wieku rozwojowego” Dorota Olczak- Kowalczyk, Joanna Szczepańska i Urszula Kaczmarek, Med Tour Press International, Wydanie I, 2017 r.–i-wewnatrzustnej-z-licznymi-ujsciami.html/

“Powikłania w zębach stałych w wyniku dużych zaniedbań w obrębie uzębienia mlecznego u 4-letniego dziecka. Opis przypadku.” Dominika Solarek, Joanna Szczepańska.  Nowa Stomatol 2019; 24(4): 149-152