Children’s Oral Health: Hygiene, Diet, Sealants, & Fluoride

happy girl

Helping your children to have a lifetime of healthy teeth is an important part of basic health care, and it is possible… if you have accurate information and tools to help you on your way. 

When it comes to children’s dental health, you may already know that diet plays a role in cavity formation. But did you also know that what your child eats (or doesn’t eat) can even help to prevent or reverse dental decay? 

The American Dental Association’s National Children’s Dental Health Month is right around the corner in February. So, let’s talk about the key nutrients to include in your child’s diet to boost dental health and also some major things to avoid (like cavity-encouraging snacks, questionable sealant ingredients, and more!).

You’re probably wondering: How do I teach my child dental health? Teaching your child good dental hygiene begins with establishing a healthy routine as soon as their first tooth erupts. You can even start wiping their gums daily prior to tooth eruption.

As children get older, the work of brushing a child’s teeth transfers hands, literally, from caregivers to child. If the importance of pediatric dental health is established at a young age, children will see it as a non-negotiable part of their day. They’re also likely to take pride in their own ability to care for the health of their teeth and mouth.

Why is good oral health important for children?

How does a child’s oral health impact their overall health? Your child’s oral health has a significant impact on their overall health — if the teeth and gums are healthy, it’s more likely the rest of the body will be, too. 

When pediatric oral health is not optimal, it can cause problems throughout the entire body. There is a direct link between the health of our mouths and the health of our entire bodies (often called the mouth-body connection or the oral-systemic connection).

How can children’s poor dental health affect their health? The mouth is a gateway or “mirror” to the entire body. Cavities and gingivitis aren’t just oral health issues — they point to a compromised immune system, an unhealthy microbiome, and problems in the diet.

Deep, untreated cavities can eventually cause pain, infection, or more dangerous systemic complications. These complications can range from dental abscesses to perpetuating painful periodontal disease. 

Periodontal (gum) disease is associated with chronic health conditions including diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and obesity.

Taking care of your child’s teeth and gums is not only a preventive measure when it comes to cavities and gum disease, but it can also ward off other major health concerns.

My Favorite Things for Great Oral Health in Kids


Once a child has baby teeth that are touching, flossing should become a daily habit. The number one place I find cavities in kiddos (adults, too!) is in between the back molars.

Not only does flossing help to prevent dental caries (tooth decay), it also helps to keep our gums healthy, which leads to better systemic health. As I like to say: Floss is 100% boss!

Vitamin D3 and K2

How can you strengthen your child’s teeth? To strengthen your child’s teeth (both the baby teeth and the permanent teeth!), try to incorporate the dynamic duo of D3 and K2 into their diet on a regular basis. 

D3 and K2 (along with calcium) prevent cavities, benefiting remineralization of teeth, and can keep the oral microbiome in check.

Limit processed foods

Refined sugars and flours are not ideal for our teeth. They’re sticky and highly processed nature break down into sugars and acids quickly, increasing cavity risk. If they do that to your teeth, imagine what these sugary foods might be doing to the rest of your body?!

Many people think crackers, Goldfish, and similar foods are healthier for their kiddos than candy and sweets. 

In reality, crackers and other foods that contain processed carbohydrates are about the same for your child’s teeth as a pack of candy. In other words… they’re not good for strong teeth.


Water is helpful to every system in our bodies, including our mouths. Not only does water help rinse off food debris and leftover sugars and help to neutralize the mouth, but it also helps to keep our saliva healthy and enzyme-rich, protecting our teeth and oral structures. 

If your child drinks some fruit juice, encourage a few sips of water afterward to clear away the sugar and acids. Also, make sure to only give plain water as a beverage after brushing and flossing before bed.

Nasal Breathing

Nasal breathing is a hot topic right now, and for good reason! Getting back to nasal breathing is critical for the well-being of the entire body. 

Mouth breathing leads to dry mouth and lowered pH (think dysbiosis or imbalances in the bacteria in the mouth) and can cause major issues. 

Often, when families are doing “everything right” and their child is still getting cavities, it is due to mouth breathing during the day and/or during sleep.

Oral Probiotics

Strains of probiotics specifically designed to support oral health are called oral probiotics or dental probiotics. 

These chewable supplements are loaded with commensal bacteria that your mouth’s mini-immune system uses to fight decay, bad breath, gingivitis, and even respiratory infections!

Children’s Oral Health Statistics

Tooth decay is the most prevalent chronic disease in children even though it is preventable, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.  

Some interesting children’s oral health facts in the United States from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • About 20% of children aged 5 to 11 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • Around 13% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one untreated decayed tooth.
  • Children aged 5 to 19 years from low-income families are twice as likely to have cavities, compared with children from higher-income households.
  • Cavities left untreated can lead to pain and infections that cause problems with eating, speaking, playing, and learning. 
  • Children with poor oral health often miss more days of school and get lower grades compared to children with good oral health.

Tooth Decay in Kids

Why does tooth decay happen? In simple terms, tooth decay happens when your teeth are demineralized (broken down) more than they are remineralized (built and strengthened). The primary cause of demineralization is acid excretion by pathogenic bacteria in the mouth. 

When cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth find sugar molecules to eat, they gobble them up and “poop” out acid. The acid eats away at your teeth. When bacteria are allowed to gather on concentrated areas of your teeth, these acid excretions cause tooth decay.

Mouth breathing and diet (specifically, a diet high in carbs and processed foods, not just sugar) are 2 of the overlooked reasons why these bad bacteria flourish and children develop tooth decay. Those are also 2 of the big factors behind bad breath in children. 

What are the factors that may lead or contribute to tooth decay?

  • Poor dental hygiene
  • Dry mouth/mouth breathing
  • A diet high in sugar, acid, and highly processed foods 
  • A diet low in vitamins and minerals
  • Poor hydration
  • An unbalanced oral microbiome
  • Certain medications 
  • Genetic or developmental predisposition

What does a cavity look like? While cavities are not always visible with the naked eye, signs of a cavity include tooth discoloration, black spots, or holes. Toothache or tooth sensitivity can also be a sign of a cavity. Regular dental visits are a very important way to catch cavities early and possibly even reverse them. 

A Tooth-Friendly Diet

To promote children’s oral health and prevent dental decay, limit processed foods as much as you can. 

I know this can be tough, but many packaged foods marketed to kids are truly terrible for their teeth. They are highly processed with many artificial flavors, coloring, refined flours, and sugar. And unfortunately, even many organic packaged foods are not ideal. Aim to eat unpackaged, whole foods as much as you can.

To encourage children’s oral health, there are also some specific nutrients you’ll want to make sure they get enough of, including vitamin D3, vitamin K2, calcium, and probiotics.  

Vitamin D is one of the nutrients responsible for delivering calcium to your teeth (along with vitamins A and K2). Many people are deficient in vitamin D, even in developed nations! Foods high in vitamin D3 are excellent for supporting tooth remineralization and protecting against cavities.

Some of my favorite vitamin D3 foods are:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Sardines

The next lesser-known nutrient key to pediatric dental health is vitamin K2, which is vital to building tooth structure. Vitamin K2 is not the same as K1 (or just “K”), is found in very different foods, and has a dramatically different function in the body.

If you’re K2-deficient, your teeth and bones will become weaker over time. Plus, your risk of most chronic diseases goes up (not just cavities).

Foods highest in vitamin K2 include:

  • Natto
  • Cheese
  • Grass-fed butter
  • Egg yolks

Calcium is a nutrient your teeth need from the inside out. Plus, more calcium intake reduces your risk of gum disease.

Try incorporating these calcium foods into your child’s diet:

  • Chia seeds
  • Beans/lentils
  • Collard greens
  • Edamame

Next up is probiotics, which support both your oral and gut microbiome. Healthy bacteria are necessary for crowding out the bad stuff that leads to cavities and gum disease. They even keep your breath fresh! 

Start with probiotic foods like:

  • Fermented pickles
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut

I also recommend supplementing with an oral probiotic like Hyperbiotics Pro-Kids ENT. These mouth-friendly bacteria are great for supporting oral health.

Things like crackers, pretzels, cheese puffs, granola bars, dried cereals, and fruit snacks should be limited as best as you can. They stick in teeth and break down into sugars and acids very quickly, causing lots of dental problems.

What are some pro-dental health foods for kids? Try veggie sticks and hummus or guacamole, seeds and nuts, olives and pickles, cheese, seaweed snacks, fresh berries and fruit, or hard-boiled eggs.  

I try to meal prep on the weekends, including cutting veggies and fruits for ready-to-go snacks for the week ahead. It’s a pay-it-forward trick that I have found helps my family tremendously!

Dental Sealants

Dental sealants are thin, plastic coatings that seal over the narrow grooves found on the chewing surfaces of the back teeth.  When placed perfectly on these deep pits, sealants can prevent a significant amount of tooth decay (cavities) by protecting sensitive tooth enamel from the acid that causes cavities.

Children who benefit most from dental sealants include those:

  • With very deep grooves in their molars
  • At high risk for cavities
  • Who eat a diet high in processed foods, refined flours and sugars, and sugary drinks
  • With special needs that make dental hygiene and/or a healthy diet more challenging

Ideally, sealants should be placed immediately after the eruption of the first molars (around age 6) and second molars (around age 12). Sooner is better to ensure the grooves have not been affected by bacteria or early cavities.

Many parents are concerned about the possible negative effects of dental sealant material on their children’s overall health. Most dental sealants do contain BPA and/or bis-GMA. Both of these established endocrine disruptors should generally be avoided in developing children.

To avoid toxic sealant materials (even in very small amounts), ask your dentist what materials they are using for their sealants. Ceramic-based materials, rather than those with BPA, Bis-DMA, or bis-GMA materials, are associated with the smallest level of risk to overall health.

Should my child get fluoride treatments?

When it comes to the importance of pediatric dental care, fluoride is a controversial topic. 

Should you give your child fluoride treatments? My short answer: No. 

My long answer: Preferably not. However, if your child has special needs or can’t really eat a healthy diet and correct mouth breathing, then fluoride treatments may be a stopgap measure worth the risk.

Rather than fluoride toothpaste, I recommend hydroxyapatite toothpaste. Research demonstrates that hydroxyapatite toothpaste helps to remineralize teeth and also prevent demineralization. Additionally, it’s been shown to work just as well to prevent cavities as fluoride toothpaste.

When should my child see a pediatric dentist?

Around the time of your child’s first eruption of baby teeth is a good time to begin regular dental checkups with a pediatric dentist. Some dentists suggest waiting until their first birthday or even 2 years of age.

If you find that teaching dental hygiene to preschoolers is challenging, your pediatric dentistry of choice is likely to have some great tips. Thankfully, there are a lot of playful, yet non-toxic toothbrushes on the market today. Making dental care fun is one of the easy ways to make your child look forward to maintaining a healthy smile and mouth. It also makes your life easier, too! 


  1. Koshihara, Y., & Hoshi, K. (1997). Vitamin K2 enhances osteocalcin accumulation in the extracellular matrix of human osteoblasts in vitro. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 12(3), 431-438. Abstract: 
  2. Motta, L. J., Bortoletto, C. C., Marques, A. J., Ferrari, R. A. M., Fernandes, K. P. S., & Bussadori, S. K. (2014). Association between respiratory problems and dental caries in children with bruxism. Indian Journal of dental research, 25(1), 9. Abstract: 
  3. Shakib, P., Rouhi, S., & Zolfaghari, M. R. (2020). The role of probiotics in preventing dental caries. Plant Biotechnology Persa, 2(1), 55-58. Abstract: 
  4. Campanella, V., Syed, J., Santacroce, L., Saini, R., Ballini, A., & Inchingolo, F. (2018). Oral probiotics influence oral and respiratory tract infections in pediatric population: A randomized double-blinded placebo-controlled pilot study. Full text:
  5. Adams, J. S., & Hewison, M. (2010). Update in vitamin D. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 95(2), 471-478. Full text: 
  6. Rubin, B. S. (2011). Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. The Journal of steroid biochemistry and molecular biology, 127(1-2), 27-34. Abstract: 
  7. Pulgar, R., Olea-Serrano, M. F., Novillo-Fertrell, A., Rivas, A., Pazos, P., Pedraza, V., … & Olea, N. (2000). Determination of bisphenol A and related aromatic compounds released from bis-GMA-based composites and sealants by high performance liquid chromatography. Environmental health perspectives, 108(1), 21-27. Full text: 
  8. Amaechi, B.T., AbdulAzees, P.A., Alshareif, D.O, Shehata, M.A., et al. (2019). Comparative efficacy of a hydroxyapatite and a fluoride toothpaste for prevention and remineralization of dental caries in children. BDJ Open, 5 (18). Full text:

Hyperdontia: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, & more

kid happy smile

How many teeth is too many? In typical cases, adults grow 32 permanent teeth, and children have only 20 primary teeth.

What does it mean if you or your child develop more than usual? Are you becoming one of the X-Men? 

Nope! You are simply one of the many Americans with hyperdontia, and there are many explanations and solutions available to your family.

What is hyperdontia?

Hyperdontia is a condition that causes extra teeth to grow in both children and adults. These are also referred to as supernumerary teeth.

These extra teeth grow within your dental arches and are most likely to develop near the incisors or in the molar area.

Is hyperdontia bad? No, hyperdontia is not “bad,” and there are many options available in cases of extra teeth — in fact, not every patient needs treatment. 

Nevertheless, it’s vital to get your, or your child’s, mouth checked if you notice an abnormally high number of teeth to avoid potential issues.

Risk Factors for Hyperdontia

Not everyone has the same odds of developing additional teeth. Here are some of the risk factors for hyperdontia.

Hyperdontia in Children 

Hyperdontia is much less common in pediatric dentistry, with only 0.3% to 0.8% of kids experiencing the condition in their “baby teeth,” also known as deciduous teeth.

Despite its rarity, it’s still quite important to chat with your pediatric dentist about the condition, as supernumerary teeth can cause overcrowding and other issues in some cases. While you’re waiting for your appointment, try these tips.

Hyperdontia in Adults

Studies show that adults are more likely to develop additional teeth than children. 

Is hyperdontia rare? Hyperdontia is relatively rare, with the prevalence of adult hyperdontia ranging anywhere from 0.1% up to 3.8% in permanent dentition.

Adult men are also significantly more likely to develop this condition than women, at a 2:1 ratio in some studies.

Causes of Hyperdontia

What causes hyperdontia? There are many potential causes of hyperdontia, mainly hereditary genetic disorders. These may include: 

  • Cleidocranial dysplasia: This causes abnormalities in skull and collarbone development. 
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate: These conditions create openings in the roof of the mouth or upper lip, which can cause ear infections and/or trouble breathing, eating, or speaking.
  • Fabry disease: Fabry creates the inability to sweat, skin rashes that appear red or blue, and hand, foot, and abdominal pain. 
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome: This disease affects joints and makes dislocation easier, causes pain around joints and muscles, scoliosis, and easy bruising.
  • Gardner’s syndrome: Gardner’s leads to growths on the colon and skull and cysts in the skin.
  • Down syndrome: Down syndrome is associated with intellectual disabilities, delayed development, and distinctive facial features.

These genetic conditions are some of the most likely causes of hyperdontia.

What happens inside the mouth when an extra tooth is growing? For answers, look inside the dental arch containing the lamina and buds where new teeth form. 

The dental lamina grows within the jaws, giving rise to the enamel as teeth form in the tooth bud. This process begins before birth, which is why we recommend bringing your baby in for their first checkup at one year old.

Early treatment allows us to spot symptoms of hyperdontia and other potential issues early, helping us plan the best treatment options for your child and guiding their dental development. Plus, we can give tips on how to get their oral microbiome thriving early for lifelong health.

Hyperdontia Symptoms

Symptoms of hyperdontia are usually relatively easy to notice and may include: 

  • Visible extra teeth, most commonly found close to the incisors
  • Pain and swelling around the tooth, in the gums, or the surrounding jaw
  • Malocclusion, as extra teeth can push their way in and take up space, crowding other teeth in the mouth (this can also happen in cases of impaction, where the tooth doesn’t fully break the gumline)

Shapes of Teeth

Not all supernumerary teeth are the same, and many shapes and types may occur. Here are how the shapes of teeth associated with hyperdontia are classified:

  • Supplemental: Supplemental teeth have the same shape and anatomy as the teeth near which they grow. Other tooth shapes that do not match the adjacent teeth are classified as rudimentary teeth.
  • Conical or peg-shaped teeth: These are characterized by a broader base and grow narrower at the top of the tooth. They may look or feel sharp.
  • Tuberculate: This shape of tooth is shaped like a tube or barrel.
  • Compound odontoma: This tooth shape is characterized by several smaller, tooth-like growths clustered near one another.
  • Complex odontoma: This shape of hyperdontia is a bit different, as it is comprised of an area of tooth-like tissue that grows in a disordered fashion.

These shapes vary, as do the locations in the mouth that hyperdontia is likely to happen.

Placement of Teeth

The placement of teeth in hyperdontia can vary. Hyperdontia is more common in certain parts of the mouth.

  • Mesioden. The mesioden is the most common type of supernumerary tooth, and it grows around one of the 4 front teeth. The mesioden is sometimes referred to as a central incisor, growing on the roof of the mouth centered between and just behind maxillary anterior incisors.
  • Distomolar. This extra tooth grows in line with the molars in the back of the mouth.
  • Paramolar. This additional tooth grows next to a molar rather than inline.

Up to 98% of supernumerary teeth grow in the roof of the mouth, and less than 24% of cases involve more than one extra tooth.

However, only a dentist can let you know exactly what you’re dealing with in cases of hyperdontia. How do they get to the bottom of diagnosing and treating these cases?

How is hyperdontia diagnosed?

Hyperdontia is usually straightforward to diagnose, especially if the tooth has already grown in. If the tooth has not erupted yet, an x-ray will reveal their presence, or your dentist may ask for a CT scan to get a better picture of what’s going on in your mouth and jaw.

Treatment for Hyperdontia 

The recommended treatment options for hyperdontia vary by each case. In many cases of hyperdontia, treatment may not be necessary. Many additional teeth cause no pain or other symptoms and are perfectly fine to leave as they are.

In some cases of hyperdontia, surgery to extract the tooth may be necessary, for example, when it causes:

  • Overcrowded, crooked teeth
  • Damage to teeth that haven’t erupted yet
  • Delayed eruption of permanent teeth in children
  • Difficulty or damage when chewing
  • Difficulty when trying to brush or floss, which may result in gum disease or cavities forming
  • Self-consciousness about your personal appearance

In some cases, orthodontic treatment may be appropriate to shift the adjacent teeth back into place.

Moving Forward

Does hyperdontia go away? No, hyperdontia does not go away on its own. You will need a dentist’s professional opinion to determine the best course of action for you.

When addressed properly, hyperdontia can be corrected or even left in place, but the peace of mind that comes with a dental visit is the best prescription to help you move forward.


  1. Rathee, M., & Jain, P. (2020). Embryology, Teeth. StatPearls [Internet]. Full text: 
  2. Nayak, G., Shetty, S., Singh, I., & Pitalia, D. (2012). Paramolar–A supernumerary molar: A case report and an overview. Dental Research Journal, 9(6), 797. Full text: 
  3. Parolia, A., Kundabala, M., Dahal, M., Mohan, M., & Thomas, M. S. (2011). Management of supernumerary teeth. Journal of conservative dentistry: JCD, 14(3), 221. Full text: 
  4. Ata-Ali, F., Ata-Ali, J., Peñarrocha-Oltra, D., & Peñarrocha-Diago, M. (2014). Prevalence, etiology, diagnosis, treatment and complications of supernumerary teeth. Journal of clinical and experimental dentistry, 6(4), e414. Full text: 
  5. Diaz, A., Orozco, J., & Fonseca, M. (2009). Multiple hyperodontia: report of a case with 17 supernumerary teeth with non syndromic association. Med Oral Patol Oral Cir Bucal, 14(5), E229-31. Abstract: 
  6. Subasioglu, A., Savas, S., Kucukyilmaz, E., Kesim, S., Yagci, A., & Dundar, M. (2015). Genetic background of supernumerary teeth. European journal of dentistry, 9(1), 153. Full text: 
  7. Sekerci, A. E., Cantekin, K., Aydinbelge, M., & Ucar, F. İ. (2014). Prevalence of dental anomalies in the permanent dentition of children with Down syndrome. Journal of Dentistry for Children, 81(2), 78-83. Abstract: 
  8. Kumar, A., Namdev, R., Bakshi, L., & Dutta, S. (2012). Supernumerary teeth: Report of four unusual cases. Contemporary clinical dentistry, 3(Suppl1), S71. Full text: 
  9. Khambete, N., & Kumar, R. (2012). Genetics and presence of non-syndromic supernumerary teeth: A mystery case report and review of literature. Contemporary clinical dentistry, 3(4), 499. Full text: 
  10. Meighani, G., & Pakdaman, A. (2010). Diagnosis and management of supernumerary (mesiodens): a review of the literature. Journal of dentistry (Tehran, Iran), 7(1), 41. Full text: 
  11. Singhvi, V., Nambiar, S., & Shetty, S. (2013). Orthodontic management of non-syndromic multiple supernumerary teeth. Contemporary clinical dentistry, 4(4), 540. Full text:

Oral Thrush in Your Baby: Signs, Treatment, & Prevention

baby smile

Has your baby been extra fussy lately and weird when you’re nursing? Peek inside your baby’s mouth and see if there are any white spots… 

If you see these telltale white spots, you may have a case of oral thrush on your hands. 

Don’t panic! Thrush is a very common health problem in babies, and there are many natural ways to treat and prevent this fungal overgrowth. 

What is oral thrush?

Thrush is the overgrowth of a fungus called Candida albicans in the mouth.

Oral thrush, also known as candidiasis, is a common yeast infection that can affect the mouth, especially in babies and elderly people. 

Is thrush contagious?

Thrush can spread from a baby’s mouth to a mother’s breast through nursing.  It can also spread from a mother’s nipple to a baby’s mouth in the reverse fashion. Thrush can go back and forth between mother and child until the issue is addressed naturally or with medical treatment. 

Signs of Thrush in Babies

The most common signs of oral thrush in babies are:

  • Excessive fussiness
  • Problems with breastfeeding
  • White and/or yellow lesions on the tongue and inside of the mouth
  • Signs of pain centralized to the mouth

How do you know if your baby has thrush? Your baby may have thrush if they suddenly have trouble nursing and are more fussy than usual. 

Is thrush painful for babies? Unfortunately, thrush lesions can be uncomfortable or even painful, which leads to difficulty eating and fussiness. 

Causes of Thrush in Babies

Oral thrush is caused by an overgrowth of the Candida albicans fungus within the mouth. Often, little ones develop thrush when the baby’s tongue is exposed to a yeast infection in the vaginal canal.

An overgrowth of Candida in the body can result in oral thrush, diaper rash, and vaginal yeast infections. Oral thrush in babies can often be accompanied by a diaper rash.

It’s natural for both babies and adults to have Candida yeast present in their digestive tracts and mouths. When it’s a normal level of Candida, there are typically no unwanted symptoms or health concerns. However, when the body’s microbiome becomes out of balance, an overgrowth of Candida albicans fungus can occur and lead to oral thrush in babies or adults. 

In adults, thrush can occur due to a weakened immune system. In babies, thrush can happen because they do not yet have fully developed immune systems. 

Oral thrush is also often seen in babies (and adults) after a round of antibiotics since antibiotics kill both the good and bad bacteria, which results in a suboptimal microbiome.

Thrush Symptoms

Symptoms of thrush can include:

  • Creamy white lesions on the tongue, inner cheeks, and sometimes on the roof of the mouth, gums, and/or tonsils
  • Slightly raised lesions with a cottage cheese-like appearance
  • Redness, burning, or soreness that may be severe enough to cause difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Slight bleeding if the lesions are rubbed or scraped
  • Cracking and redness at the mouth corners 
  • Thrush in babies diaper area (diaper rash)

Moms experiencing a Candida infection of the breast may experience:

  • Unusually sensitive, red, cracked, or itchy nipples
  • Shiny or flaky skin on the areola
  • Unusual pain while nursing 
  • Nipple pain between feedings
  • Shooting pains deep within the breast

Treatments for Thrush 

How do you get rid of thrush in babies? To get rid of oral thrush in babies, you may have to wait out the infection; but some thrush infections require medical intervention. A conventional healthcare provider may recommend a prescription or over-the-counter medication.

Medical Treatment

Medical treatment for oral thrush in babies often includes an antifungal solution (such as nystatin or fluconazole) to apply to your baby’s mouth multiple times a day for 10 days. Your doctor may also recommend an antifungal ointment for mom to apply to her nipples.

If your baby also has a diaper rash that is the result of a yeast infection, your provider will likely recommend prescription antifungal medication for the diaper rash as well. 

Over-the-Counter Medications 

There are a few options for over-the-counter baby thrush treatment, but make sure to check with your pediatrician before using any of these options.

Conventional antifungal medicines (both prescription and OTC) can come with some unwanted side effects such as diarrhea, irritation, and more, which is why you may want to consider home remedies for oral thrush in babies as your first line of attack.

Home Remedies for Thrush 

How can I treat my baby’s thrush at home? Home remedies for oral thrush in babies may include items you may already have around your house, like baking soda, coconut oil, and salt water. 

These are some gentle yet effective remedies that are especially likely to work if your baby has a mild case of oral thrush. 

Baking Soda

To use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for your baby’s thrush: 

  1. Dissolve a half teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of warm water. 
  2. Using a cotton ball, apply this diluted baking soda to the inside of your baby’s mouth. 

The mix can also be used on the nipples by mom between feeding sessions.  

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil isn’t just a tasty ingredient and a fantastic natural moisturizer; it also contains an anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal agent called caprylic acid. Research demonstrates that caprylic acid can successfully kill off the Candida albicans yeast that causes oral thrush. 

Use a cotton swab to dab coconut oil on the white patches in your baby’s mouth. You can also apply it to your nipples if you’re a nursing mom. 

A warning for using coconut oil for oral thrush in babies: It is possible to be allergic to coconut oil. Discontinue use if you notice any type of allergic reaction in your baby. 

Salt Water

Before you turn to prescription antifungal medication for your baby’s lesions, you may want to try good old salt water instead. 

To use salt water as a home remedy for oral thrush:

  1. Dissolve a half teaspoon of good quality sea salt in warm water.
  2. Apply it to the lesions using a small, clean sponge or cotton swab. 

The salty water is a soothing natural antiseptic that, applied regularly, might make those lesions disappear. 

Yogurt and Probiotics

If your baby is eating regular food, unsweetened milk yogurt or kefir is a great choice right about now. The high probiotic content of these foods can help to balance out your baby’s microbiome. 

Just make sure to avoid a sugary yogurt or kefir — the Candida yeast feeds on sugar. 

If yogurt isn’t an option, look for an infant-appropriate probiotic supplement. 

Gentian Violet

Gentian violet is a popular home remedy for thrush in babies. Although this natural treatment may be useful, it easily stains and carries risks (especially if it’s overused), including irritating the sensitive oral mucous membranes of a baby’s mouth. 

Talk with your provider before trying this remedy and consider it as your last natural option. 

Can you breastfeed if your baby has thrush?

You can continue to breastfeed if you and/or your baby has thrush. Some babies will nurse just fine, while others may struggle a bit. 

Can you prevent thrush?

Since thrush is caused by fungal overgrowth, it’s crucial to maintain a nourishing, whole foods-based diet and other habits that encourage a healthy microbiome. A fungal infection like thrush may still occur, but these are definitely ways to prevent one in the first place. 

Good Oral Hygiene

Your baby may not have teeth yet, but daily wiping their gums and tongue with a wet washcloth is the start of a good dental health regimen. 

Once baby teeth erupt, brush them twice a day to reduce not only plaque that can cause cavities but also to prevent an overgrowth of yeast that can cause oral thrush. 

Smart Breastfeeding Habits

Whenever possible, let your nipples dry thoroughly in between feedings to avoid bacterial overgrowth. Changing nursing pads after each feeding can help, too.

Cotton bras can also support ventilation.  Wash bras often in hot water, especially if you or your baby has an active thrush infection. 

Emphasis on a Healthy Diet

Your diet and your baby’s diet (if he or she is old enough) can go a long way to discourage or encourage a thrush infection. 

Candida loves to feed on sugary and starchy foods, so if you’re going to reduce or cut out anything from your diet, this is definitely the place to start. Avoid high sugar beverages,  processed foods, and starchy items like cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.

Instead, focus on high-fiber veggies that feed healthy (commensal) bacteria in the mouth and gut. Aim for your little one to consume nutrient-dense whole foods whenever possible.

Support Your Microbiome

To support your baby’s microbiome, I recommend that you take probiotics as a nursing mom. This allows you to pass that good bacteria on to your baby and strengthen both mom and baby’s immune systems. 

Breastfeeding, in general, is also a great way to bolster your baby’s immune system. Human milk is known to encourage a healthier microbiome and a healthier immune system in babies. 

Supplementing with probiotics is especially important after mom or baby has taken antibiotics. Research demonstrates that Lactobacillus strains of probiotics are most helpful in fighting Candida infections.

If you’re bottle-feeding, you can also look for options via formula or supplements to provide them with more probiotics in their diet daily. 

Other Tips to Prevent Thrush

Here are some other great ways to prevent thrush (in both baby and mom):

  • Wash your baby’s hands, pacifiers, and toys regularly to prevent bacterial growth that can get into your baby’s mouth and disrupt their microbiome (making yeast overgrowth more likely).
  • If you use a breast pump, sterilize it regularly.
  • Always refrigerate breast milk until right before you give it to your baby to discourage yeast growth. 
  • When you or your baby have thrush, it’s extra essential to wash bras, clothing, burp cloths, etc., in hot water. 

Key Takeaways

Whatever you do, try not to freak out if you realize your baby has oral thrush. It’s a widespread occurrence, and it responds well to treatment. It even goes away on its own sometimes! Thrush can also be prevented in both mom and baby, and now you know those prevention tips.

When to Call a Doctor

Oral thrush is typically not a problem for healthy children and adults. However, it can spread from the mouth to the tonsils or back of the throat. 

Once you notice that your baby has signs of oral thrush, it’s a good idea to give your pediatrician and/or pediatric dental provider a call to get professional medical advice and discuss the best course of action. 

Cases of oral thrush can clear up without medical treatment after a week or two, but you or your doctor may not want to wait that long. I highly recommend trying home remedies, especially if you get the green light from your doctor.

Going forward, don’t forget that cutting out sugars and adding probiotics to your diet can go a long way to prevent thrush in both you and your nursing baby. 


  1. Bae, Y.S. & Rhee, M.S. (2019). Short-Term Antifungal Treatments of Caprylic Acid with Carvacrol or Thymol Induce Synergistic 6-Log Reduction of Pathogenic Candida albicans by Cell Membrane Disruption and Efflux Pump Inhibition. Cell Physiol Biochem, 53(2), 285-300. Abstract:
  2. Mundula, T., Ricci, F., Barbetta, B., Baccini, M. & Amedei, A. (2019). Effect of Probiotics on Oral Candidiasis: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Nutrients, 11(10), 2449. Full text:

What Causes Rotten Teeth? [Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, & More]

pink smile happy

What your child is eating (think: candy) and not eating (think: probiotic-rich yogurt) can have a direct impact on whether or not you have to deal with rotten teeth. Tooth decay, AKA rotten teeth, is so common in children!

The good news is that it can easily be avoided.

Pictures of rotten teeth can be quite alarming, especially in the late stages. Will rotten teeth fall out? If rotten teeth are not addressed, they can eventually fall out and also cause significant infections and other problems before falling out.

The good news is that you can prevent severe decay before it starts or even early enough to reverse the damage. Yes, a reversal of rotten teeth is possible in the early stages!

rotten teeth

What causes rotten teeth?

Rotten teeth — or tooth decay, dental caries, or cavities, as we dentists call it — can be caused by many factors, including:

Poor Diet

An unhealthy and nutrient-deficient diet is by far one of the main contributors to tooth decay.

Foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes, flavorings, and starches contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth. Plaque, and eventually the tartar it turns into, breaks down tooth enamel and causes cavities and other dental health concerns.

Frequent snacking or grazing is a major source of tooth decay, resulting in enamel erosion and cavities.

This is because snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment.

Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm your teeth. This makes it more likely for you to experience tooth decay and develop cavities.

Try to pick snacking windows to use daily for your kiddos to prevent rotten teeth.

Bad Dental Hygiene

Not taking proper care of the teeth and gums can result in rotten teeth. Brushing, flossing, tongue scraping, and other basic dental care techniques serve as a way to offset the demineralization that leads to cavities.

Ensure your kids (and you!) brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day. Don’t forget to schedule regular check-ups and cleanings with your dentist (at least two times per year).

Dry Mouth/Mouth Breathing

Have you noticed that your child is a mouth-breather, even without a cold or stuffy nose?

Although this may not seem to be a cause for concern, chronic open-mouth posture or mouth-breathing reduces the amount of saliva and disrupts the oral microbiome within the mouth, increasing the risk of tooth decay gum inflammation.

Dental Crevices

A tooth with a crack or crevice is more likely to become a rotting tooth. Tiny or noticeable dental crevices provide a place for bacteria and acid buildup, which encourages tooth decay.

Sometimes, dental sealants are used for crevices on a tooth’s surface (especially molars) to prevent dental caries.

Unhealthy Oral Microbiome

Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria. Having an overgrowth of harmful bacteria in the mouth creates a microbiome that is much more conducive to rotten teeth (and many other health problems!).

Those harmful bacteria love sugar. When you consume a lot of carbohydrates or high sugar foods, bacteria produce acid that contributes to the formation of cavities and rotten teeth. The oral microbiome may also become overrun with pathogenic bacteria due to inadequate saliva production or mouth breathing.

rotten teeth

Symptoms of Rotten Teeth

What do rotten teeth look like? Several symptoms can indicate a rotten or decayed tooth.

Signs of rotten teeth include:

  • a hole in the tooth
  • a white, brown, or black spot on a tooth
  • toothache or sensitivity
  • swelling around the gum line
  • bad breath
  • loss of taste or altered taste in the mouth

If you or your child exhibit one or more of these signs, it’s time to schedule a dental visit!

rotten teeth

Dangers of Rotten Teeth

The scary fact is that rotten teeth affect the body that can go far beyond your mouth. Let’s take a closer look at just how serious advanced tooth decay can be and why you really want to avoid it.

Poisoned Bloodstream

If a decayed tooth becomes infected and is left to rot, it can lead to blood poisoning. This means that bacteria from the rotten tooth infection have entered the bloodstream.

Blood poisoning is a severe infection and requires urgent medical care.


A dental infection can also lead to sepsis, a life-threatening response to an infection resulting in tissue damage, organ failure, and even death.

Seek urgent medical care if you have a rotten tooth and signs of sepsis, including fever, difficulty breathing, low blood pressure, fast heart rate, and mental confusion.

Gum Disease

The increased levels of plaque that cause caries can also contribute to gum disease.

Plaque turns to tartar, and both substances throw the oral microbiome out of whack and cause rampant inflammation — in other words, a breeding ground for bleeding gums.

Endocarditis or Meningitis

When a tooth becomes infected, a tooth abscess develops in the mouth. An abscess is a pocket of pus around the tooth caused by a bacterial infection.

If not treated, an abscess can spread to the jawbone, the soft tissues of the face and/or neck, and elsewhere. In extremely rare cases, the bacterial infection can travel to the heart, causing endocarditis, or the brain, causing bacterial meningitis.

Loss of Taste or Bad Taste in the Mouth

Infections caused by rotten teeth can actually result in taste loss or dysgeusia, a persistent, unpleasant, or altered taste sensation (sometimes metallic) in the mouth.

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, taste disorders can be caused by poor oral hygiene and dental problems.

How to Treat Rotten Teeth

How can you fix rotten teeth without going to the dentist? If you suspect advanced tooth decay, schedule a dental visit immediately. However, there are things you can do at home depending on the level of decay and your dentist’s assessment.

Of course, daily oral care is always a must, but let’s look at possible treatment options depending on the stage of rotten teeth.

rotten teeth

Treatment for Early Stages of Rotten Teeth

Can you fix rotten teeth? In the early stages of tooth decay, your dentist may be able to perform a remineralizing treatment or advise you about at-home rotten teeth treatment and remineralization efforts.

Personally, I am a big fan of using biocompatible and non-toxic hydroxyapatite toothpaste rather than fluoride toothpaste for cavity prevention and rebuilding enamel.

Including teeth-healing nutrients like calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D3, and oral probiotics in the diet and avoiding demineralizing foods (high sugar and/or processed foods) is also critical.

Most of the time, it takes roughly 3-4 months for remineralization to take effect. You may want to take some pictures of the teeth before and after remineralization to document your child’s progress!

rotten teeth

Treatment for Advanced Stages of Rotten Teeth

Treatments for rotten teeth, or teeth that have been significantly decayed, include:

  • Dental filling
  • Pulpotomy (baby teeth) or root canal (adult teeth)
  • Tooth extraction

Unfortunately, not all cavities can be remineralized. When rotting has made its way to the dentin level or is causing pain, it typically cannot be remineralized or treated at home.

Once a rotten tooth is in the more advanced stages, your dentist will likely need to remove the rotten section of the tooth and insert a dental filling. 

If decay has reached the center of a tooth and is accompanied by infection, a pulpotomy (in baby teeth) or a root canal (in adult teeth) may be necessary. After a pulpotomy or root canal, you’ll need a dental crown.

Alternatively to pulpotomy/root canal, your provider may recommend a tooth extraction, which is complete removal of the tooth. If a baby tooth is extracted before the adult tooth is close to erupting, your child will likely need a spacer to maintain orthodontic growth.

Preventing Rotten Teeth

The best thing for rotten teeth is preventing them in the first place.

To prevent tooth decay on a daily basis:

  1. Follow a consistent oral hygiene plan that includes both brushing and flossing. Bush twice a day for at least two minutes and floss at least once a day. Be sure to scrape your tongue.
  2. Eat a tooth-friendly diet. Avoid snack foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes, flavorings, and starches. Instead of sugary foods and starchy foods, choose whole foods with fresh fruits, raw vegetables, quality meats and dairy, nuts and seeds, whole grains, and limited processed food products. Ensure that a healthy, whole foods-based diet includes calcium, vitamin D3, vitamin K2, and probiotics because these all help to naturally prevent rotten teeth.
  3. Have your child rinse their mouth after meals with water and wait at least 30 min before brushing.
  4. Try oral probiotics to balance the oral microbiome. This is particularly important if you or your child have bad breath or are consistent mouth breathers.
  5. Address mouth breathing with your child’s dental and other health providers. Don’t let mouth breathing and/or sleep-disordered breathing wreck your child’s dental and overall health!
  6. Avoid antibacterial products in the mouth, such as mouthwash. These knock out the good bacteria in the mouth along with the bad.

When to See a Dentist

As soon as you notice a rotten tooth, it’s an excellent time to see the dentist. Your dentist (especially if she’s a holistic dentist!) can guide you in reversing tooth decay at home or treat the tooth if required.

If you notice symptoms of open mouth breathing in your child, bring them to your pediatric dentist or pediatrician’s attention. Getting a proper diagnosis and early treatment can often treat the issue before these symptoms worsen and result in long-term medical conditions.

Your oral health and the oral health of your child reach far beyond your mouth. If you notice a rotten tooth, take action quickly to avoid tooth loss and other complications.


  1. Sepsis Alliance. 2021. Dental Health. Retrieved from:
  2. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2021. Periodontal (Gum) Disease. Retrieved from:
  3. Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Abscessed Tooth. Retrieved from:
  4. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. 2021. Taste Disorders. Retrieved from:

What does a cavity look like? [Symptoms in Kids + Adults]

Cavities, also known as dental caries, are holes that form in teeth when tooth enamel is eroded by acid.

According to the CDC, more than 80% of Americans will have at least one cavity by the time they are 34. Cavities are amongst the most prevalent chronic diseases that affect people of all ages, but they are especially common in children. In fact, they are the #1 chronic disease in children in the US.

What causes a cavity? A cavity is a hole in a tooth (tooth decay) that can be brought on by a number of things, including a nutrient-deficient diet, frequent snacking, bacteria in the mouth, poor dental hygiene, demineralization of teeth, mouth breathing, genetic factors, and consumption of sugary/acidic food and drink.

Specifically, certain types of food particles break down into sugars and feed bad bacteria on the teeth, which then excrete acid. That acid can eventually build up into plaque and tartar and begin to decay tooth enamel and dentin.

When cavities are ignored, they can lead to bigger problems including painful toothaches, spreading infections, or even a root canal or tooth extraction.


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If you suspect you or your child has a cavity, don’t hesitate to visit your dentist right away. Hopefully, the cavity may be reversible. But either way, the sooner you address the tooth decay, the better!

How can you tell if you have a cavity? You can tell if you have a cavity if you have signs of tooth decay including pain, sensitivity, or visible marks on your tooth. But often, smaller cavities have no symptoms and can only be diagnosed through a dental exam or with dental x rays.

Let’s take a closer look at the signs of a cavity possibly brewing in your kiddo’s mouth.

what does a cavity look like with advanced carriers

Signs of a Cavity

Cavity symptoms can vary depending on the size of the cavity as well as the location of the cavity in your mouth. Symptoms do tend to get worse as the cavity progresses.

It’s not hard to find a “do I have a cavity” quiz online, but you can also consider whether or not you have any of the cavity symptoms below.


A tooth (or multiple teeth) with decay is noticeably more sensitive to temperature changes. If your child consumes something hot or cold and complains of sensitive teeth, it may be a cavity, especially if this sensitivity is newly developed since their last dental checkup.


What does a cavity feel like? A cavity can feel straight-up painful! Your tooth may actually ache. The pain will likely get worse when you consume things that are hot or cold. Sweet foods and sweet drinks may result in pain as well. Spontaneous pain, especially at night or during sleep, is a tell-tale sign, too.

The longer a cavity is ignored, the worse the throbbing or aching can become.

Swollen and/or Bleeding Gums

The gum area around the tooth of concern may appear red, raw, or inflamed. This change in gum texture will be most apparent near the gum line. Gums may bleed as well. Very often, swollen gums resembling a pimple or bubble can indicate a dental infection or abscess and indicate a call to a dentist ASAP.

what does a cavity look like with white spots and discoloration

White, brown, or black spots on a tooth

Can you physically see a cavity? Yes, it is possible to visibly see a cavity and it can appear in the form of a spot or discoloration on your tooth. If you notice a spot on a tooth — whether it be white, brown, or black — this likely could be a cavity.

Hole in the tooth

See a small hole in one of your child’s molars? If you visibly see a hole in your child’s tooth of any size, this is a red flag to make an appointment with the dentist. I encourage parents to look into their children’s mouth’s regularly, especially by lying children back for brushing and flossing because you will have a better view of what is happening in your child’s mouth. Some parents even bring out headlamps occasionally for a better view!

Halitosis (bad breath)

Does your child have bad breath even after brushing and flossing their teeth? This may be a sign of a cavity brewing. It can also be a sign of gingivitis (gum disease) in children and adults or an issue in the back of the throat or with a child’s sinuses, indicating a possible visit to an ENT.

It’s important to remember that your kiddo can have a cavity and not show any of these symptoms, which is why regular dental checkups are vital. Often, only advanced dental disease will cause symptoms.

what does a cavity look like with demineralization, white spots, incipient and staining

What do cavities look like when they first start?

Here’s what to look for on your kiddo’s teeth:

  • A chalky or whitish appearance on tooth enamel
  • A white spot on a tooth
  • A tannish, brown or blackish dark spot on a tooth
  • A tiny hole in a tooth

How to Reverse Cavities

Can a cavity go away on its own? Yes! The good news is that teeth can repair and heal, just like bones, so it is possible to reverse a dental cavity.

Made up of 96% minerals, teeth are the strongest tissue in the human body. They are porous, which allows them to lose minerals (but also to absorb them!). The sooner you catch a cavity and make efforts to reverse it, the better.

Wondering how to prevent cavities or reverse them if they’ve started? These are some of my top diet and lifestyle changes to start practicing today:

1. Fat-Soluble Vitamins

Fat-soluble vitamins D3 and K2 are crucial to optimal dental health in children (and adults).

Vitamin K2 plays a key role in the development and maintenance of healthy tooth enamel (outer layer of teeth with no living cells) and dentin (inner layer of teeth with living cells) immune response. Without vitamin K2 , calcium can’t be adequately processed in kids’ bodies and won’t efficiently strengthen teeth.

K2 can be hard to get in the diet, but egg yolks and grass-fed butter are a great source for kids without an egg allergy. I also like Carlson Kid’s Super Daily K2, which is a dairy-free, vegetarian liquid supplement. It’s an easy way to ensure vitamin K2 intake by putting a drop in food or a drink daily.

Vitamin D3, “the sunshine vitamin”, assists in the absorption of calcium. Foods high in vitamin D include salmon, egg yolks, sardines, and cod liver oil.

If you have trouble getting your child to be a fan of vitamin D foods, I also like Renzo’s Dynamite D3. It’s a tasty, green apple flavored tablet that is vegan, sugar-free, and has no artificial sweeteners. Totally parent and kid-approved!

Looking for a D3 and K2 together?  My new favorite combo is Mary Ruth’s D3/K2 which is what I give my own girls daily.


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2. Bone Broth

Thankfully, it’s often not hard to get kids to eat and enjoy soup. Make the base of that soup bone broth, and you’re providing them with benefits galore including remineralization and stabilization of teeth.

I always recommend making your own bone broth, but as a working mom myself I don’t always have the time. Kettle & Fire’s Bone Broth is organic with a variety of yummy flavors.  Many local farmer’s markets will have premade options, too.

3. Xylitol

A natural sweetener found in the fibers of fruit and vegetables, xylitol stimulates salivary flow which reduces the risk of tooth decay, strengthens teeth, and inhibits the growth of dental plaque.

You can look for toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain this anti-cavity ingredient. Plus, most sugar-free chewing gums contain xylitol.  I do advise using this in moderation as we are learning more about how alternative sweeteners may disrupt our gut microbiome. More research is needed.

4. Beverages

Limit sugary drinks — including fruit juice — as much as you can. Opt for water as much as possible and allow only plain water after your child’s nighttime dental care routine.

Milk can be a calcium-rich choice, but again, don’t allow this after teeth have been brushed. The lactose in milk is a sugar that can cling to teeth leading to acidity and possible cavity formation, especially when combined with food particles and plaque left on teeth with perhaps an unideal hygiene routine.

I recommend plain A2 or grass-fed, grass-finished milks, or goat milk which are easier to digest and more abundant in K2 (as well as other nutrients).

It’s important to know that a dry mouth is just as dangerous to teeth as eating sugary candy. Better hydration can make a huge difference when addressing dry mouth, along with optimal nasal breathing.

5. Remineralizing Toothpaste

A remineralizing toothpaste, especially with an “iffy” diet, can be a make-or-break ingredient to little cavity-free teeth.

Instead of fluoride toothpaste, I recommended hydroxyapatite toothpaste. Hydroxyapatite (HAp) is a form of calcium apatite, also known as calcium phosphate, and is a naturally occurring mineral that makes up our bones and teeth. It makes up over 90% of the foundation of your tooth’s enamel and 60% of your bones.


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Even when lab-created, this important mineral can assist in strengthening, restoring, and even rebuilding your teeth and bones. Specifically, in dentistry, it has become a healthy alternative in toothpaste to fluoride thanks to its natural remineralizing and restorative properties.

In fact, a 2019 study demonstrates how a 10% hydroxyapatite toothpaste was able to successfully remineralize developing cavities and prevent demineralization equally as well as fluoride toothpaste.

My favorite HAp toothpaste for kids is Risewell’s Cake Batter toothpaste. For adults, try Boka’s Ela Mint or Coco Ginger toothpaste. They taste great, contain clean ingredients, and can protect your child’s teeth and your own from decay and disease

6. Better Snacking

Kids love to snack, there’s no doubt about that. However, is there a better way to snack? When it comes to dental health, the answer is definitely “yes!”

I always encourage my patients to avoid frequent snacking or grazing. Snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment. Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm teeth. This makes it more likely that you’ll develop tooth decay and cavities.

Snack smartly by limiting how often children snack between meals and keeping those snacks on the healthy side. Shoot for 2-3 hours between food with only plain water in between as much as possible.

This means saying “no” to foods high in refined sugar, refined flour, unhealthy fats, food dyes and flavorings, preservatives, and starches. These are the ingredients that contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth that attack tooth enamel and over time can cause cavities and other dental health concerns.

As a general rule, it is always best to choose whole foods such as fresh fruits, raw vegetables, high-quality meats and dairy, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.

Is it time to see your dentist?

If your child has signs of a cavity or you’re not sure if that tooth spot is a cavity vs. a stain, it can’t hurt to see your dentist to evaluate the situation. Catching a dental cavity in the early stages is always ideal. Regular 6-month check-ups are still the gold-standard to stay on top of dental health and growth and development, too.

what does a cavity look like with tooth recently sealed

In some cases, you may choose to have dental sealants placed on your child’s teeth to prevent future tooth decay, particularly on the large chewing surfaces of their teeth. While sealants are controversial in biological dentistry, there are safer materials (read: BPA and phthalate-free) that can be used to protect teeth without causing unwanted side effects.

What a Cavity Looks Like On an X-Ray

what does a cavity look like with xray of cavity

Sometimes a cavity doesn’t have symptoms or it may look like a stain, but an x-ray can help get to the bottom of things.

What does a cavity look like between teeth, on the top of the teeth, or on the side? On a dental x-ray, a cavity typically appears as a dark area or shadow on a tooth.

What does a cavity filling look like? On an x-ray, a cavity filling shows up as a brighter spot on a tooth. So it’s not hard to tell the difference between a filling and a cavity on an x-ray.

what does a cavity look like with xray
Na’am, 2016

Preventing Cavities Before They Begin

Prevention is always the goal when it comes to oral health. It’s best to stop cavities from forming to begin with because it will always be cheaper, less traumatic, less uncomfortable or painful, and better for your systemic health to prevent cavities in the first place rather than trying to correct them.

But if your child does get a cavity, do NOT stress! Your pediatric dentist has you covered. We will just work with you as a member of the team to keep your children cavity-free moving forward. Onward and upward!

The tips to reverse cavities can also help to prevent cavities, so don’t forget how powerful diet and daily habits can be when it comes to your children’s oral hygiene! More on cavity reversal strategies coming soon!

As always, consult with your child’s physician prior to any supplementation changes.


  1. Nayak, P.A., Nayak, U.A., Khandelwal V., (2014) The effect of xylitol on dental caries and oral flora. Clin Cosmet Investig Dent, 6 (89-94). Full text:
  2. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. 2016. Hygiene-related Diseases. Retrieved from:
  3. Amaechi, B.T., AbdulAzees, P.A., Alshareif, D.O, Shehata, M.A., et al. (2019). Comparative efficacy of a hydroxyapatite and a fluoride toothpaste for prevention and remineralization of dental caries in children. BDJ Open, 5 (18). Full text:
  4. Paszynska, E., Pawinska, M., Gawriolek, M. et al. Impact of a toothpaste with microcrystalline hydroxyapatite on the occurrence of early childhood caries: a 1-year randomized clinical trial. Sci Rep 11, 2650 (2021).
  5. Naam, J., Harlan, J., Madenda, S., & Wibowo, E. P. (2016). Identification of the proximal caries of dental x-ray image with multiple morphology gradient method. International Journal on Advanced Science, Engineering and Information Technology, 6(3), 343-346. Full text:

How Snacking Affects Your Teeth

snack smile happy

How Snacking Affects Your TeethWe know that as a parent or caregiver, you want your children to achieve bright and healthy smiles. One of the ways you can help them get those perfect smiles is by choosing healthy options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Healthy and nutritious meals play an important role not only in your children’s general health but also their energy and focus levels. However, it is not only what your children eat or drink that can affect their oral health, but how often they eat.


When you eat or drink, the environment in your mouth becomes acidic as part of your body’s natural digestion process. Bacteria that live in the mouth break down sugars and starches while you eat and drink and produce acid, lowering the pH levels of the mouth.

The acid can attack your teeth’s enamel causing the enamel to weaken and eventually lead to tooth decay and the formation of cavities. Though it may only take a few seconds for the mouth’s levels to become acidic, it takes at least 20-30 minutes for your pH levels to neutralize once you finish eating and even longer to actively remineralize a heavy acid attack. We generally recommend 2-3 hrs between eating moments or eating on a schedule.  This process occurs no matter the size of the meal, whether a single chip or a full Thanksgiving feast. It will even happen while drinking most beverages (except water).


Recently, studies have shown that frequent snacking or grazing is a major source of tooth decay which may result in enamel erosion and cavities. This is because snacking continuously throughout the day means your mouth is mostly in an acidic environment. Though our saliva helps to neutralize the effects of the acid once we finish eating, snacking too often can overwhelm your teeth making it more likely for you to experience tooth decay and develop cavities.

Even if they are primary teeth, they play an important role in your children’s development by helping them chew and speak as well as shape their faces and act as placeholders for permanent teeth. Snacking smartly and practicing good oral hygiene habits will help your children protect their teeth.


Snack smartly by limiting how often children snack between meals and selecting healthy snack options. Foods high in refined sugar, refined flour,  unhealthy fats, food dyes and flavorings, and starches can contribute to the production of plaque and acid within the mouth that attack tooth enamel and over time can cause cavities and other dental health concerns. As a general rule, it is always best to opt for the whole foods route with fresh fruits, raw vegetables, quality meats and dairy, nut and seeds, whole grains, and limited processed food products.

Qulaity dairy products such as milk and cheeses are excellent sources of calcium which help to build strong and healthy teeth. Cheese is also high in phosphorus which works to keep your children’s enamel strong and works to remove plaque from the surface of their teeth.

Fruits that are high in fiber such as apples and pears are considered nature’s toothbrushes and help to clean your teeth as you chew. Bananas, grapes, kiwis, and other berries are other healthy substitutes for desserts and easy to prepare. Be mindful of certain fruits as they can be high in sugars. Limit citrus fruits as they are high in acids and can erode tooth enamel, lead to cavities, and can increase tooth sensitivity.

Crunchy raw vegetables such as carrots, celery, cucumbers, green peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens are some of the best snacks for oral health. They are high in water content which helps to dilute natural sugars and high in fiber. Just like with fibrous fruits, these snacks will help to scrape away bad bacteria and food debris from your children’s teeth. Also, the crunchiness and need to chew a lot helps aid in the  development of the face, jaws, and airways.

Yogurt can be a great substitute for gelatin or pudding cups. Plain (ideally grass fed and finished) yogurt without added sugars and flavors is a great snack option and can be used as a base to which you can add your children’s favorite fruits or nuts. Yogurt also contains probiotics which can help get rid of bad bacteria in your children’s mouths.


Regardless of the snack, always remember to have your children rinse their mouths after meals with water and wait at least 30 minutes before brushing as the acid can damage the teeth if brushed too soon. Have them brush twice a day for at least two minutes with a soft bristle brush in a circular motion along the teeth and gum line and floss at least once a day. For young children, parents or caregivers should help them brush and floss…my office rule is until TEN YEARS OLD children should have supervision.   As they age, you can allow them to do it themselves, but monitor or check afterward to make sure all the areas of their mouth are clean.

Children should come in every six months for routine examinations and professional cleanings so that we can monitor oral growth and development. For more information on how snacking can affect your children’s teeth, hygiene tips,  or to schedule an appointment, please contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today.

Breastfeeding and Cavities

brestfeeding smile

Breastfeeding and CavitiesEarly childhood caries is of epidemic proportions, but such was not always the case. Looking at prehistoric and ancestral human skulls, it is noted how infrequent cavities were in ancestral humans. From what we know, modern humans have been around for about 100,00 years…but cavities have only been noted in anthropological specimens for the past 8,000-10,000 years. That means that babies who breastfed had little to no decay for about 92,000 years. So, what gives?

The cavity process is complicated. But from the latest research, we know IT IS NOT breastmilk by itself that causes cavities. Many mamas are told to stop breastfeeding because their children are a higher cavity risk. While I understand the reason that many providers advise this, we are not truly addressing or educating about the ROOT CAUSES. It is not the breastmilk itself, rather a perfect storm of events. Things that may be contributing to the “nursing caries” process:


The introduction of sugars and flours. This includes puffs, cereals, crackers, teething cookies, granola bars, pretzels, and most anything that comes from boxes and bags. It is generally after foods have been introduced that caries are noted.


cavity-causing bacteria is CONTAGIOUS and most babies receive an introduction of these bad bacteria from their caregivers. It is important to get your own dental needs under control prior to having a baby, and if this isn’t an option, use things like baking soda rinses and avoid kissing and sharing cups and spoons if possible. Prebiotic and probiotics are also key.


Candida may be to blame. Again, a sign of dysbiosis or an imbalance between good and bad microbes in our oral cavity, yeast, and fungal microbes may be a big piece of this puzzle.


I am seeing more and more undermineralized or hypocalcified teeth in my practice. The reasons are hard to pin-point, but if seen in primary teeth it is an issue that arose in utero, or around 17-21 weeks post conception. It can be a result of an illness of the mother during this time, her exposure to certain medications or environmental toxins, depletion of critical nutrients like A, D, E, K, and calcium, or that her microbiome (gut, oral, even the placenta) is in dysbiosis. I tend to see more of this in second+ born children, very likely due to depleted mothers.


Once food is introduced, it is critical to start hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing daily. Consider using hydroxyapatite toothpaste or baking soda slurries. Xylitol wipes are great after feedings in the middle of the night or after meals during the day when brushing and flossing are not an option.


Restricted labial frenums may contribute to decay on upper anterior teeth by allowing breastmilk to pool against already susceptible teeth, whether due to poor oral hygiene or under mineralized enamel.


babies and toddlers who mouth breath dry out their oral tissues, greatly contributing to increased cavity risk. Mothers with sleep-disordered breathing or apnea may be affecting their microbiome, too, continuing the issue with dysbiosis in their mouths and guts, or if pregnant, possibly in their placenta. More research on this is needed.


Knowledge is power. Reading this two-part series of posts and applicable research will help you make choices to help prevent this heart-breaking and sadly, common disease.
Ideally, try to get your own oral health, gut health, and sleep/airway addressed prior to conceiving. If this is not possible, try to tackle them as best you can during pregnancy and after birth. Xylitol daily and baking soda can help create a more balanced oral microbiome, along with excellent hygiene, nutrient-dense foods (especially pre and probiotic-rich), and regular dental check-ups.

Eat nutrient-dense foods during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Focus on fat-soluble vitamins, probiotic-rich foods, lots of veggies, hydration, and quality sleep as best as you can. Read ‘The Dental Diet’ by @drstevenlin for more ideas.
Ask for help and create a tribe. Community is key and being a parent is really hard to do alone. Try to reach out to friends, family, and if you can, outside providers to offer support and care during pregnancy and after birth.

Establish a good hygiene routine as soon as a first tooth erupts. You can even start wiping gums prior to that, especially if you know your oral health and hygiene is not optimal.
Address mouth breathing or frenum restrictions early. Your pediatrician, pediatric dentist, IBCLC, or ENT can help guide you.

**PLEASE NOTE: this post and these studies are regarding BREASTMILK and Nursing, NOT FORMULA or COW’s MILK and babies and toddlers falling asleep with a bottle. I never advise letting baby or young child fall asleep with a bottle at bedtime**

Please see comments below for more research citations and references. DM if you’d like more on this topic.

Sending love to all you Mama-Bears (and Papas!) out there! You are doing a great job caring for and nurturing your babies and children.

With Love + Health,
Doctor Staci

1. The March/April 1999 issue of Pediatric Dentistry stated, “It is concluded that human breast milk is not cariogenic.” This study utilized extracted teeth to obtain most of its results and studied children only for determining the pH changes in dental plaque (Erickson 1999). A Finnish study could not find any correlation between caries and breastfeeding among children who were breastfed longer (up to 34 months) (Alaluusua 1990). Valaitis et al concluded from their studies, “In a systematic review of the research on early childhood caries, methodology, variables, definitions, and risk factors have not been consistently evaluated. There is not a constant or strong relationship between breastfeeding and the development of dental caries. There is no right time to stop breastfeeding, and mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed as long as they wish.” (Valaitis 2000)

2. Dr. Brian Palmer states in his paper that, “Human milk alone does not cause dental caries. Infants exclusively breastfed are not immune to decay due to other factors that influence the infant’s risk for tooth decay. Decay causing bacteria (streptococcus mutans) is transmitted to the infant by way of parents, caregivers, and others” (Palmer 2002).

3. The other foods in baby’s diet and not breast milk that are responsible for supporting the tooth decay process. The P.R. Erickson study Investigation of the role of human breast milk in caries development. Pediatric Dent 1999 (healthy teeth were placed in different solutions) indicated that breast milk alone was virtually identical to water and found not to cause tooth decay. Another experiment demonstrated that the teeth became stronger when immersed in breast milk, but after a small amount of sugar was added to the breast milk, the mixture became greater than a sugar solution in terms of causing tooth decay. This study stresses the importance of tooth brushing and good dental hygiene not only for our babies, but for all of us. All are excerpts from research, presentations, and publications by Brian Palmer, DDS


5. Iida H, Auinger P, Billings RJ, Weitzman M. Association between infant breastfeeding and early childhood caries in the United States. Pediatrics. 2007;120:e944–52 10.1542/peds.2006-0124 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

6. Mohebbi SZ, Virtanen JI, Vahid-Golpayegani M, Vehkalahti MM. Feeding habits as determinants of early childhood caries in a population where prolonged breastfeeding is the norm. Community Dent Oral Epidemiol. 2008;36:363–9 10.1111/j.1600-0528.2007.00408.x [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

7. Campus G, Solinas G, Strohmenger L, Cagetti MG, Senna A, Minelli L, et al. . National pathfinder survey on children’s oral health in Italy: pattern and severity of caries disease in 4-year-olds. Caries Res. 2009;43:155–62 10.1159/000211719 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

8. Rosenblatt A, Zarzar P. Breast-feeding and early childhood caries: an assessment among Brazilian infants. Int J Paediatr Dent. 2004;14:439–45 10.1111/j.1365-263X.2004.00569.x [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

9. Hallett KB, O’Rourke PK. Social and behavioural determinants of early childhood caries. Aust Dent J. 2003;48:27–33 10.1111/j.1834-7819.2003.tb00005.x [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

10. van Palenstein Helderman WH, Soe W, van ’t Hof MA. Risk factors of early childhood caries in a Southeast Asian population. J Dent Res. 2006;85:85–8 10.1177/154405910608500115 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

11. Roberts GJ, Cleaton-Jones PE, Fatti LP, Richardson BD, Sinwel RE, Hargreaves JA, et al. . Patterns of breast and bottle feeding and their association with dental caries in 1- to 4-year-old South African children. 2. A case control study of children with nursing caries. Community Dent Health. 1994;11:38–41 [PubMed] [Google Scholar]

12. Ollila P, Larmas M. A seven-year survival analysis of caries onset in primary second molars and permanent first molars in different caries risk groups determined at age two years. Acta Odontol Scand. 2007;65:29–35 10.1080/00016350600963590 [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

13. Du M, Bian Z, Guo L, Holt R, Champion J, Bedi R. Caries patterns and their relationship to infant feeding and socio-economic status in 2–4-year-old Chinese children. Int Dent J. 2000;50:385–9 10.1111/j.1875-595X.2000.tb00573.x [PubMed] [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]


Open-Mouth Breathing and Your Child’s Oral Health

open smile breath

Open-Mouth Breathing and Your Child’s Oral Health
Have you noticed that your child is a mouth-breather, even without a cold or stuffy nose? Although this may not seem to be cause for concern, chronic open-mouth posture or mouth- breathing can be a sign of sleep-disordered breathing, tethered oral tissues, oromyofunctional imbalances, and other conditions that can significantly impact your child’s oral health.

Sleep Disordered Breathing

Sleep disorder breathing includes a spectrum of disorders including snoring, loud breathing, open-mouth breathing and sleep apnea. These conditions are often overlooked and left untreated. However, in many cases, they are signs of changes in your child’s health. Continuously breathing through the mouth instead of the nose can impact your child’s growth and development and their oral health and is a common cause of dental cavities within children. We encourage parents to check for signs of mouth breathing and snoring so that we can begin diagnosing the root causes and sending your child to the appropriate specialists promptly.

The importance of treatment

The jaw and tongue are used primarily for eating, speaking, and swallowing. When incorporated into the breathing process repeatedly, posture begins to be altered. This can be important as a majority of children’s craniofacial growth occurs between birth and the age of 12. Chronic mouth breathing can pull the jaw and tongue into lower positions leading to facial malformation, malocclusions, and compromised airways.


Open-mouth breathing is often an indication of a problem within the nasal passageway, the posterior pharynx, or within the oral cavity (or often a combo!). Children may not be able to recognize this as a problem as they do not understand the risks it can pose to their growth and development and often do not even realize they are doing it. Common causes of open-mouth breathing can include parafunctional habits, allergies, chronic nasal congestion, inflamed sinus tissue, a deviated septum, tongue-tie, jaw relationship and shape issues, and promotor dysfunctions. All these conditions can make it difficult to breathe through the nose, resulting in open-mouth breathing.


Though open-mouth breathing may seem harmless, as a long-term habit it can lead to health issues such as:

  • Bruxism or teething grinding
  • Crowded teeth
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Irregular bite
  • Jaw pain
  • Morning headaches
  • Poor facial development such as long face syndrome
  • Poor memory or ability to focus, sometimes mimicking ADHD
  • Restless sleep
  • Sleep deprivation

Did you know that open-mouth breathing can lead to an increased risk of developing gingivitis and tooth decay? Chronic mouth breathing reduces the amount of saliva and disrupts the oral microbiome within the mouth, which is important to neutralizing dangerous acids and washing away harmful bacteria. Without it, the risk of tooth decay and gum inflammation significantly increases.


As stated above, the most important thing you can do as a parent or guardian is to note the signs and symptoms and bring them to your pediatric dentist or pediatrician’s attention. By paying close attention and seeking a proper diagnosis and treatment early, we can often treat the issue before these symptoms progress resulting in long-term issues.

Treatment will vary depending on the underlying cause of your child’s mouth breathing. We will make sure to work with your child’s healthcare team to determine the best treatment for your child. In cases of allergies or nasal and airway obstructions, your child’s primary care doctor or an ENT will be the best at determining the right treatment. However, dental treatment can include palatal expanders and other functional dental appliances to help keep your child’s development on track and encourage him or her to breathe through their nose. Regular dental cleanings and maintaining proper oral hygiene can help to reduce plaque buildup and prevent gingivitis from developing as a result of open-mouth breathing. Be sure to see your dentist regularly as these issues can arise in later childhood and teen years, too! We all want your children to thrive and periodically monitoring their growth and development is key!

With Love + Health,
Doctor Staci and the NoPo Kids Team

A Cavity-Free Halloween!

A Cavity-Free Halloween!Fall into October and get ready for a Spooktacular Halloween! This is one holiday that many children (and grown-ups like myself!) look forward to all year. Families pick and decorate pumpkins, some create and wear creative costumes, and many end the night with a fun-filled jaunt of trick-or-treating.

Trick-or-treating can be loads of fun, but we understand that many parents worry about the effect the larger amounts of candy and treats can have on teeth. We also know most children won’t stop at just one sugary treat on Halloween and, honestly, that’s okay! As long as you create a solid plan ahead of time and maintain proper dental hygiene, your teeth will be happy and healthy after all of the fun and festivities.

To help you navigate the night, we’ve decided to offer you a few recommendations and tips for how to be cavity-free this Halloween.

Make a Plan Ahead of time!

Before you begin all of your Halloween activities, be sure to set some candy guidelines rules. Kids are often okay with rules as long as they know them in advance. If you set a candy limit, be sure to try and stick to it! Make a decision on how many pieces your child can have Halloween night and the subsequent nights following. Try to encourage more chocolatey treats (dark chocolate is my fave!) and less sticky and gummy ones as chocolate will be more likely to melt off from teeth and be less cavity-causing. There are also great Xylitol options out there now which actually help inhibit bacteria-causing cavities. Dr. John’s is one of my go-to’s and they are actually having a Halloween sale right now, so check it out!

Carry water with you all night while out trick-or-treating and offer it after any candy and this will help rinse sugars and acids of the teeth. And of course, please FLOSS and BRUSH well that night before bed with nothing but water after.

The best time to eat candy is after a meal, so try to plan your candy-dispensing-fun after Halloween night around a meal. Salvia production increases while we eat and helps counteract the harmful bacteria.

We understand that with the pandemic, trick-or-treating may be a little different this year. Please remember to wear your mask and practice social distancing, even if just visiting friends or family (your pods). If you are going out at night, be sure to be bright! A light-up necklace, glow sticks, or reflective tape can be the difference between safe and injured.

Tooth-Friendly Candy Swaps

If you are giving out treats this year or want to provide some tooth-friendly alternatives for your own children, here are some of our fave recommendations…

Consider getting creative with fruits like by making fun fruit-sticks with items like grapes, berries, apples and bananas…all which are nutritious and better for your children’s oral health.

Another option for candy swaps are non-food alternatives such as Halloween-themed toys, glow sticks, bubble wands, and temporary tattoos. These options are inexpensive and fun for kids without the added sugar! Also, consider given out pocket change that you have collected from the year…a neighbor used to do this when I was a kid and she had a line down her driveway of kids waiting to grab a handful of peenies and the occasional nickel or quarter.

If you really want to give out consider chocolate especially dark chocolate. More on this below….

During the night

While you are out trick or treating, it is important to practice proper road safety. Obey all traffic laws and stay close to children on busy roads. Be aware of your surroundings and always look both ways before crossing.

Now onto the important part: candy! Be mindful of which candy you eat as each can affect your teeth differently.

Sticky and gummy candies can be messy and harder to clean off not only fingers but also your teeth. Sour candies tend to be very acidic, that’s why you pucker! However, that acid can break down the enamel on your teeth, making them more prone to cavities. The same can be said for sticky and chewy candies that can stick around between your teeth increasing the chance of a cavity. Candy doesn’t have to be harmful to your teeth if you practice moderation.

Chocolate is your best bet on a happy Halloween. Not only is it sweet, but it washes off your teeth easier than other candies. Baked goods without sticky dried fruit, gelatin treats, fruits, ice cream, popsicles, and yogurt are also tooth-friendly treats.

Remember to stay hydrated during the night by drinking plenty of water to help keep your mouth clean between candy breaks. This also helps keep those sugars off your teeth.

Once you get home

If you’ve made a candy plan, be sure to stick to it. Everything in balance is OK and candy is no exception. Be sure to check candy ingredients for any that may be harmful to your child.

Unsure of what to do with all that candy? If you don’t want to eat it all, we understand and can help point you in other directions. Try a candy switch in your house, trade candies for prizes such as books or small toys. You can also donate your candy to appropriate organizations to help give out candy to others.

We understand that it can be tempting to just go to bed after such a fun night, but this is the one night you should prioritize brushing and flossing.

Your mouth is full of good and bad bacteria. Those harmful bacteria love candy as much as you do! While the bacteria may eat the left-over sugar in your mouth, they also produce acids that contribute to the formation of cavities, so it is super important that on a big night such as Halloween that you remember to brush and floss! We recommend waiting at least 30 minutes after a candy binge as the candy can leave your teeth’s enamel sensitive and demineralized and brushing right away may do more harm than good. Flossing is just as important as it cleans those areas between your teeth that toothbrushes can’t reach.

For more tips on how to keep your family cavity-free this Halloween or to book an exam after your Halloween fun, contact our office at or call 971-978-0009.

Thumb-Sucking and Pacifier Usage

baby binky

Is your child a habitual thumb-sucker or pacifier user? Are pacifiers and thumb-sucking always a bad thing? Like many parents, you may be concerned about your child’s habit and wonder if it is truly harmful.

Questions like “what age should the habit be broken” and “what will happen if my child does not stop” may arise in your head. Though these habits may be soothing to infants and young children, continuing past a certain age can cause many oral health concerns and should be discussed.


Pacifiers, thumb-sucking, or finger-sucking are not entirely bad habits. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry understands and recognizes that thumb-sucking, finger-sucking, and pacifier usage is normal for infants and young babies. This habit often begins in the womb and continues after birth to help babies to feel happy and safe as they explore their new world.

However, we do like to see the pacifier eliminated as soon as possible, with the AAP and most sleep and airway specialists likely to see if gone by 6 months old after SIDS risk has dropped!! The sooner the better to avoid emotional attachment.

The thumb is trickier, but most children will drop it on their own by 4-5 years old. If I could wave a magic wand, I would have these habits stop as early as possible, but alas, no magic here…yet At NoPo Kids we offer many pacifiers and thumb-sucking elimination strategies to families, from cold-turkey with pacifiers, to a positive-reinforcement program for the thumb, so be sure to ask more about this at your appointment!


As your child grows, thumb-sucking and pacifier usage may cause problems with the proper growth and development of his or her mouth. These include jaw misalignment, tooth decay, palate narrowing, slanting of teeth, mouth sores, and altered bites or malocclusions. As a result, children may have speech issues, difficulty eating, start mouth breathing or snoring, an possibly have sleep-disordered breathing issues. It can be a really big deal, with concerns going far beyond esthetics, involving actual function and airway development. Children who continue thumb-sucking and pacifier usage into childhood are more likely to need orthodontic treatment, myofunctional therapy, and/or speech therapy.


As mentioned above, it is a normal habit developed in the womb and seen as a method of soothing or calming oneself. Every child is different so there may be a period of trial and error as you find a method that works for your child. Remember to be patient as he or she discovers a new way to be calmed. Also, it is key to find a time that is emotionally right for your family. I would suggest avoiding elimination strategies around any travel, moving, life stressors, or big changes like a new sibling, or if sleep or potty training. There will be a sweet spot to start the process of getting habits to drop and you will know when the time is right for you and your child.

We have a few considerations and tips you can use to discourage your child from sucking on his or her thumb, pacifier, or fingers.

  • Use positive reinforcement. If your child accomplishes a task without sucking on his or her thumb or pacifier, show praise for doing a good job. Charts are amazing tools here and we have some available for you here on our website or in the office.
  • Often these habits are used to comfort or soothe a child during stressful times. Focus on correcting the cause of anxiety and provide alternate forms of comfort such as a special toy, blanket, or a Myomunchee. Sing a happy song or read a story to soothe him or her into a state of comfort.
  • For older children, involve them in the process. Discuss with them why they should stop so that they understand the reasoning behind your discouragement.
  • For the thumb, little reminders or distractors help, like bandaids, thumb-gloves, silicone chew necklaces, fidget spinners, or Myomucnhees.

We are here for you and your child. Contact us if you have any questions, concerns, or if you would like us to aid in encouraging your child to stop their pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. And remember, your child will not graduate college sucking on their paci or fingers…promise!
For more information on the effects of thumb-sucking and pacifier usage, contact NoPo Kids Dentistry today.