Since more than a year, one tooth of my 3.5-year-old daughter has started to deteriorate. Recently, two more teeth are getting affected. This is due to not getting her teeth brushed up properly and regularly.

Now what measures should be taken to care for it and to rectify the situation? As these teeth are temporary, when will these come out and new permanent ones come?

  • +1 Good question! My sister's daughter exactly having the same problem at the same age because of the same reason as said by you. We are unable to do anything, as we have a new born baby in our home we are failing to take care of our 3 1/2 year child :( Most of the times I have been helping her to brush her teeth but sometimes she refused me to do that. Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 10:06
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    You might want to have a look at his question and the links in the answers: health.stackexchange.com/questions/3074/…
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 14:03
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    More of a personal anecdote than an answer, but do not rely on temporary teeth coming out as an excuse not to teach dental hygiene. I was not instilled with proper dental practices, and according to my dentist, this is what cause 5 adult teeth to not form, leaving me with only temporaries. On top of that, failing to teach dental hygiene can lead to life-long bad habits of not brushing teeth, flossing, etc; something I didn't really start doing until I was in my mid-teens, but at that point the damage was done (thinned out enamel), and I will probably be looking at dentures before I hit 40.
    – Sidney
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 16:12
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    If getting her to brush is a problem, try a fun electric toothbrush. We got battery operated toothbrushes for our kids. They have cartoon characters on them, and the kids love turning them on and off and using them. It's like a special toy that we get to play with at bed time! As far as cost, they are pretty cheap. Less than $10 for sure for the basic ones. If want something to clean the best, you can move up to a Sonicare (or similar) for kids once they are use to the cheap electric brushes.
    – JPhi1618
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 16:39
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    Here's what I did - I failed completely and it cost me like $1600 to have all her teeth repaired. Insurance refused to pay for it. I advise you to do the electric toothbrush thing and try to make it fun for her. Do it 3 times a day if you can. I might be 70 by the time I'm done paying off all these medical and dental bills. Don't be me.
    – Kai Qing
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 0:52

6 Answers 6


Step 1: See a dentist, have cavities treated asap. Yes, these teeth will fall out, but until then, they act as placeholders for the permanent teeth. There are also sources that claim the deciduous teeth are important for the development of the permanent teeth. (Which will start to appear at around five to seven, that's quite different between kids.) And frankly, untreated your daughter is in for a lot of pain if you don't act now. If the teeth are in really bad shape, a good dentist might suggest sedating her to treat the cavities. While this sounds extreme, it may be a good choice, because conciously having multiple teeth treated is no picknick for a 3.5 year old. Ask around for recommendations, you want a dentist that is good, patient and gentle with children and takes his time, not just one that does a good job with the teeth alone.

Step 2: Start brushing teeth as recommended: At least twice a day using toothpaste with appropriate fluoride content and as per recommended technique. Your dentist or the Internet can guide you. Brushing teeth is the parent's responsibility until the child's dexterity is quite good. Until then, let the child brush first to practise, then finish. Rule of thumb: by the age of seven or eight, they should be ready. A 3.5 year old can't manage this.

Step 3: Visit the dentist regularly, typically twice a year. This not only prevents fear in the child, but ensures small starting cavities can be treated before they become problematic. A good dentist will also help you with proper technique, because he sees the spots you might be missing when brushing her teeth.
Going to the dentist only if you are in pain might establish a bad pattern for life.

  • 5
    Cavities and decay in temporary teeth can also act as source points to spread decay to permanent teeth as the old ones fall out and new ones come in -- yet another reason to treat now, and regularly visit a dentist to prevent new cavities.
    – Acire
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 13:40
  • Good advice. I would suggest adding to the answer: 1) use a fluoride toothpaste and don't rinse the mouth after brushing, and 2) reserve sweets and sugary treats for special occasions.
    – A E
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 14:38
  • Use dental floss. You can get the little plastic 'bows' with floss on, they are easy to use on someone else. I don't know where you are located, but here in the US you can get some for kids with animals, dinosaurs etc. Extra money, but it does make it more fun.
    – Ida
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:25
  • Very good answer. My daughter lost one teeth at 4 (for a very bad fall), and the dentist failed to recommend to put a placeholder there ("it's just a temporary one"). So now we are bound to an expensive, several year long, treatment to rectify teeth positions all over. Treat the bad teeth (a cavity treatment can't be expensive --- even if she need a pulpotomy --- less than $100 each here), if they drops or you are forced to remove them before their time it will painful and expensive.
    – Rmano
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 10:15

We have a 3.5 year old with a similar problem. We took him to a dentist who gave us a $2000+ recommendation, 4 root canals. We went to get a second opinion. The second dentist suggested we do the following:

  1. No sugar. This means no juice, no chocolate milk, no candy, etc.
  2. Brush after each meal, make certain the decaying teeth get brushed. This can be hard with a squirming kid.
  3. Get a fluoride mouth wash and use a q tip to apply the mouthwash to the decaying teeth. this will harden the tooth and slow down the decay. Do this at least twice a day. We just do it whenever he eats anything.(Bold because I didn't see anyone else mention this)

We started this over a year ago and met with the dentist every 3 months to check on the teeth. so far so good. The dentist thinks we have a 70% chance that the teeth will last until the adult teeth come in. Both dentists are pediatric dentists. They had drastically different approaches.

Baby teeth fall out in the order the came in. Starting at around 5 years old.

You really want to meet with a dentist who can check up and make sure its not getting worse. Just letting the teeth decay for the next 3-6 years could lead to some big problems as noted by the other answers.

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    And a word of warning to those considering "simplifying": Do this only under the supervision of a good dentist. This is no home treatment that could substitute regular visits. Marc, good answer & welcome to the site!
    – Stephie
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 20:32
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    +1 on the "No sugar". And note that this is #1, above brushing the teeth! Also, don't brush the teeth immediately after eating - wait a while. After eating the enamel on the teeth is at its softest, so you can even cause damage by vigorous brushing too soon after eating.
    – MrWhite
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 11:40

There's multiple things that should be done to address it, from education to seeing a dentist. A child not brushing their teeth, in and of itself, doesn't cause tooth decay... the bacterial waste from specific types of compounds, such as sugar, are what causes the decay (in conjunction with acidic food items which dissolve enamel).

Everyone likes sweet foods, as our brains are hardwired to respond pleasurably to sugar, however children have to be rationed on it for reasons from oral hygiene to body weight. This doesn't mean one should go to either extreme, but removing sugary drinks from their diet will help enormously. Combine teeth that are regularly being bathed in sugar with then not being cleaned is a recipe for decay (this also happens to be what causes Meth Mouth in Methamphetamine addicts, which was thought to be due to the harshness and toxicity of Meth, until it was discovered otherwise a few years back).

Above all else, the easiest way to make a child embrace a skill they need to have is to make it into a sort of game, combined with positive [not negative] reinforcement. Make it an activity where you or the other parent brushes their teeth alongside the child, as monkey see, monkey do. Children learn most by watching others, especially their parents. To get a child into the habbit of brushing, make it fun for them... have them pick out the character of tooth brush they want, allow them to pick out the toothpaste and mouthwash they find cool and like.


Make sure your child's toothpaste contains fluoride and use the amount recommended on the tube.

Establish twice-daily tooth-cleaning as non-negotiable. If all else fails, do it by force. This may be very difficult but if you persevere, your child will come to accept it.

With a bit of luck you can think of better ways to get it done. Here are a few ideas:

  • Let your child watch you brushing your own teeth. Let him/her have a go at brushing your teeth too - they will think it is great fun.
  • 3 1/2 is not too young to understand the reasons for cleaning them, so educate. Try a disclosing tablet.
  • Reduce sugary foods and drinks. Dried fruit may be good nutritionally, but for teeth it is just as bad as sweets. Natural fruit juice is just as bad as any cordial. Replace sugary drinks with sugar-free alternatives, or better still, milk or water.
  • No drinks in bed except water. Not even milk.
  • Make treats conditional on cooperation with tooth-cleaning.
  • If all else fails, do it by force - this sounds harsh, but this is how it has to be. The child will come to accept it and even enjoy it, even though they may scream and fight at first. And the way to think of it is that you're building habits that will last a lifetime.
    – Kryten
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 16:21
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    Can you elaborate a little on how you can "do it by force" without it being a pretty traumatic experience (potentially reducing brushing compliance later, even into adulthood, and making the dentist a more fearful spectre)?
    – Acire
    Commented Sep 18, 2015 at 18:26

You might find she does not like the whole toothpaste experience; either the strong taste, and/or the foaming action. My young child found "Oranurse" toothpaste much easier to take. Weak flavour, 1450ppm of fluoride and it does not foam up.


Fact is you both have lessons to learn. You to ensure this is resolved and to ensure your new child does not suffer similarly. She to ensure she suffers no more.

Part of the future is to make yourself aware of what drinks and foods will do damage to your children. When they do have something with sugar in then give them milk or cheese afterwards as these take the PH in the mouth back towards neutral. Water does not do it anywhere near as effectively.

You are in a position to support her by making sure it doesn't happen again.

  • Can you rephrase this to be more positive? OP obviously wants to take steps to repair the damage and prevent further problems.
    – Acire
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 17:27

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