32 answers

2 Year Old Son with Cavities

I just took my son to his pediatric dentist today and he has 3 cavities. The dentist wants to put him under anesthesia to do the fillings as he will not stay still or cooperate with him. I am a little freaked out about this! Does anyone have any experience on this? Thanks in advance for any advice!

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So What Happened?™

I just want to say THANKS to everyone for the advice and support! I ended up taking my son to another dentist for a second opinion. The second dentist doesn't see the hurry in getting the cavities filled right away as the cavities are very small and his teeth are not "soft". So for now we will be keeping a close eye on things and hopefully by the time we need to get the cavities filled my son will be old enough to use other methods of sedation. Again, I appreciate everyone for your time and experiences!

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I had the same experience with my oldest daughter when she was 4, she is now almost 7. I had her put to sleep on account of her anxiety and it worked great. She was given a mild sedative to relax her and it really worked. I hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

Hello L.,
Before I would commit to having my little one anesthetized, I would do a little research. If possible find out what will be used.

I had the same problems with my 2 year old daughter. I found a dentist in Rocklin who gave my daughter just the shot to fix her cavities. She had 6 and we split them up into 3 visits. The last one was yesterday and it was all successful. I went to 2 different dentists who wanted to IV sedate her and put all caps on the 6 cavities. All they ended up was filling 3 cavities and capping 3. No root canals either. The other dentists said she would have to have baby root canals. The office is Smile Island and their number is ###-###-####. I don't know where you are located at but it is well worth it. Good luck you can email me with any questions too.

Mother of 4 (15,10,2,1)

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Hi L.,

My daughter is 3 now, but we found a cavity when she was 2. By the time we got an appointment with a pediactric dentist she had 2 cavities and by the time she got an appointment at the hospital for the procedure she had 3 cavities.

She was given a general anasthetis in a hospital outpatient clinic. She was not given the choice of doing anything else and even if given the choice in retropect I would not have taken it.

The dentist said that her enamel never formed and so in addition to the fillings he put a coating on all the teeth where the enamel was missing or not properly formed. The whole procedure including Xrays took half and hour plus the few minutes that took to put her under.

I was in the room with her until she went to sleep with gas and then I left while they did the general and the procedure. When she started to wake she cried for me and eventually when they realised she was not going to settle without me they allowed me to come in.

It was a bit scary to see her so out of it, but as soon as she realised it was me (she is still breastfed and once I gave her the breast she realised it was me) and then she stopped crying and went back to sleep. She slept in my arms for another 2 hours and only remembers waking up in my arms.

Her experience with the dentist was so good that she was not at all afraid of going to the dentist when we had to have a check-up 2 weeks post the procedure and we are going again next week for a 6 monthly check up and she is all excited about going to the dentist.

Our dentist says that the holes were caused by the enamel not forming and this would have happened in the womb or at birth and it is not gauranteed that it will not happen again with her adult teeth, so it was important to me that going to the dentist was not traumatic. For her going to the doctor is very traumatic after some experiences she had as a baby (well that is all I can attribute it to).

The general anaesthetic did not worry me as it was conducted in a hospital setting with an anaethetist who specilises in children and a highly regarded pediatric dentist.

My recomendation to you would be to be calm about the whole affair and postive about it and prepare yourself for seeing your child in a state you amy never want to see them in, but know it is just the drugs and with the proper care around they are safe and will get through it and not remember it.

By ensuring they have healthy teeth through their childhood you are potentially saving yourself a lot of money in the future in terms of dental work, as if their teeth come out early their adult teeth will not grow with the correct spacing and they will more likely have to have braces later in life.

Looking after her teeth is a big deal in our house now and she is very involved in briushing her teeth and rinsing her mouth if she eats or drinks after brushing and before going to bed. The whole experience has been very positive and I think if you approach it positively it can have a positive outcome.

Do ensure though that the setting is safe with the mediacl support around, jsut in case.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any further questions ____@____.com

Good Luck,

1 mom found this helpful


Its a hard decision either way, but you should go with your gut.
My opinion is...
I think it is in your child's best interest to be put under for the fillings. It will be a much less traumatic experience for him. Talk with the dentist about the pros/cons of it and make sure they are experienced in pediatric anesthesia. Thats my 2 cents.

Good luck,


1 mom found this helpful

Hi L.,
I just had three fillings of my own. It takes a long time to do three fillings. It took three injections. My jaw was so sore and tired toward the end. I can't imagine either of my children being able to endure the shots and time of three fillings without anesthesia.

When my son was not quite two, he had a scratched cornea. I had to hold him down twice - for the doctor to look in his eye and also to put cream in his eye. I could hardly restrain him. It's so hard to say what I would do in your situation without actually living it. Based on these two experiences, I would seriously consider anesthesia.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

I had the same experience with my oldest daughter when she was 4, she is now almost 7. I had her put to sleep on account of her anxiety and it worked great. She was given a mild sedative to relax her and it really worked. I hope this helps!

1 mom found this helpful

First off, you should go with your instinct and don't do anything you're uncomfortable with.

That said, I've been through this with 2 kids. The enamel on their teeth never formed correctly so needless to say, my then 4-year-old had 4 fillings and 4 crowns. Believe it or not, they only had to sedate him. He drank a liquid (which is like Benedryl) which made him groggy, but not put under. The dentist said since he was not afraid or crying and screaming, the sedation would be enough.

My other son (then 2 1/2) was another story. He was crying and screaming even just sitting in the dentist's chair. Our dentist suggested waiting 6 months to see if my son would be calmer then.

We waited, he wasn't. The cavities needed to be addressed. Our son was "put under". Of course, I was completely nervous and freaked out. BUT our dentist uses a pediatric anesthesiologist who called me the night before to explain the whole procedure. By this time I completely trusted our dentist.

My son was "put under" and he had 5 fillings filled, his teeth sealed, and Xrays taken. He was 3 at that time and everything worked out fine.

My kids could (and should!) have a great fear of the dentist, but THEY DON"T! They actually don't mind going at all. I think if you find an experienced dentist who you're confident in, you'll be fine. You can't just let the cavities go. It can cause infection and abscesses which lead to worse things.

Sorry this was so long and I hope it helped!

Hi L.,

When my son was 1 year old, he was diagnosed with a genetic condition on his teeth. He did not have enough enamel, also called "soft teeth". His teeth were slowly disintegrating-looked like he was chewing on the crib. It got progressively worse-looking, and when he was almost 3, the dentist found his back molar had cracked and broken in half. We needed to fix his teeth-bonding and caps. Not sure if it was going to affect all teeth or just permanent ones. So 1 day after his 3 year old birthday, he was put under with a breathing tube (yes, very scary and stressful, but the only way because of his age and he wasn't cooperative).Well, our pediatric specialist is THE BEST! He works with Oakland Childrens Hospital for the anesthesia, and he is located right at Valley Care, Livermore. His name is Dr. Joshua Solomon and we love him.I wish you the best of luck:) -P.

I had the same problems with my 2 year old daughter. I found a dentist in Rocklin who gave my daughter just the shot to fix her cavities. She had 6 and we split them up into 3 visits. The last one was yesterday and it was all successful. I went to 2 different dentists who wanted to IV sedate her and put all caps on the 6 cavities. All they ended up was filling 3 cavities and capping 3. No root canals either. The other dentists said she would have to have baby root canals. The office is Smile Island and their number is ###-###-####. I don't know where you are located at but it is well worth it. Good luck you can email me with any questions too.

Mother of 4 (15,10,2,1)

Hi! When my daughter was about 4 or 5, they wanted to do this. Instead, I waited & tried another dentist office. They were more patient & caring, so my daughter had her cavities filled the regular way at the dentist office.

However, will they be doing this at a hospital, or just at a dental surgical center, or at the dentist office? Since your son is only 2 yrs old, you should see what your regular pediatrician thinks. Does your child have any health problems at all? (If I remember correctly, an oral surgeon once told me that when she has had such young patients, she does this at the hospital just as a precaution. So, ask your regular pediatrician.) & Make sure that they explain the procedures completely, the anesthesia, recovery time, etc.

Good luck!

i had this same problem when my son was 2. he hated to have his teeth brushed. i had to hold him down between my outstretched legs to brush. i felt horrible doing it, but it had to be done!! anyways, he was a very hyper little guy and i was afraid he wouldnt sit for the dentist, but we had a dentist who specialized in children and the office had t.v.'s and movies for the kids to watch while they were in the chair. he even got to bring one of his favorites to watch while he was being worked on. they also had a little treasure chest of prizes for the kids when they were done and that was a great motivator for him to sit still. he cried a little, but did really well with no sedation. we had to pay a little extra as the dentist wasnt on our insurance list, but it was sure worth it!! are there any dentists like this in your area? i didnt look to see where you are, but the dentist we saw was in Auburn. as for being put under, if it has to be, then it has to be, cause you cant let those cavities get worse. i always have to be sedated and/or gassed as i hate the dentist. i've never felt hung over or bad after, but then i'm not out all the way, just enough for me to be a happy camper while the work is done. good luck!!

The first time I took my son to the dentist, they gave him a pill. The pill made him flip out big time. Anesthia is a way to work in their mouth without complication. The doc made me mad when he asked for my son to take the same pill twice, plus put him a valcro strap head to toe.
It was a nightmare. If a dentist talks to your child to stay calm then it would be easy to work in his mouth. From experience, its easier, & its for a short time. Good luck.

One of my daughters also had a problem with two cavities at age 2 not due to lack of brushing nor not enough enamel but another physical factor of her baby teeth (luckily kids don't usually have these same problems with their adult teeth). Anyway, our pediatric dentist told us he would do it only under general anesthesia, and that he would never do any child her age without it. When I told him I was uncomfortable with that approach and wanted to at least explore other options he referred me to a different local pediatric dentist. The second dentist did it in his office without the anesthesia and it all went very smoothly. This dentist does not use lots of TV or movies to distract the child like some of the other responses mentioned (the first one does just for routine stuff) but instead has an office filled with stuffed animals, which they can hold if they want. He also said that in many cases for younger children he often has them sit on their mom's lap in the chair while he does the procedure. We did not need to do this in our case, but I was nearby ready if needed. One issue I did not have, however, is a child who won't sit still. My daughter was very good at sitting for the dentist and did not fight back or try to get away, so your child's personality may be an important consideration. Anyway, our dentist is in Marin, so if that's near you I would be happy to give you the referral. (By the way, for routine stuff my other daughter still prefers going to the first dentist, although the one with the cavities has switched permanently to the second one. They are both very good, but have different philosophies and approaches.)

My sister went through the same thing with her 2 yr. old boy. He had 7 cavities and he had to go under aneshesia as well. She took him to a kids dentist and the proceedure went very well. My sister was very scared and cried because she was so scared but in the end it all went fine. I wish you luck! And try not to worry. :)

We had the same issue when my son was about 2.5. But as the first person stated, the anesthesia is much more dangerous to his health than the cavities. Considering you can *die* from anesthesia we felt the risks did NOT outweigh the benefits. We continued good brushing and flossing habits. Now that my son is 3y9mo we are going to get the cavities treated, but we are trying nitrous first. I would recommend getting a second opinion. Also, just try to have super great teeth habits for 3-6 months and get them rechecked. You can never tell how fast or slow they might progress.

I would go with your instincts. The anesthesia is much more dangerous to his health than the cavities. There are alternatives. My granddaughter has badly deformed teeth from nursing at night, but after treatment with floride and daily brushing, the decay has been halted. These teeth will come out. But people die or have psychological damage from anesthesias. From second hand experience.

Dear L.,
I used to work for a pediatric dental specialist.
A good one really does have your child's dental health in mind.
Children can get cavities at a very early age for many reasons. It may be genetic. It may be from going to sleep with a milk bottle. Believe it or not, apple juice and raisins are two of the worst things you can give your children because of the damage that can be done to their little teeth. Assuming that baby teeth will eventually fall out anyway is not a good path to go down. Teeth can become infected and absessed and if you think you had a cranky kid when the teeth were coming in, you don't want to wait to know how bad it can really get once the cavities kick in.
Some children who are cooperative and not fearful do quite well on the oral sedation. However, some do the exact opposite and become very hyper. Then it becomes a bad situation.
If it's been recommended that the child be anesthitized, you can always get a second opinion, but it's a good bet it was recommended so your child doesn't have to be strapped down which can cause further trauma and fear of the dentist.
I really hope things work out well for you and your little one.
Best of wishes.

My daughter was put under anesthesia when she was 2 because she needed to have "baby" root canals and silver caps put on her back 2 molars. I was scared, but everything went fine. We held her as she was waking up, and tried to keep her a little calm the rest of the day, but she did great! Then, when she was 4, she had to have another cavity filled, and we did it with the nitrous in the dentist's office. She was a little older and had the TV and stuff like other people mentioned, and did pretty well with that, but I got to stay next to her and hold her hand. When we did the anesthesia the first time, we had to do it at the hospital, the pediatric dentist that we see does it there for safety. I would also recommend going with your instincts. Everything turned out fine for us, our daughter is a little freaked out about the dentist now, but it's from remembering the last one at the office and having the filling and everything. Of course, as a mom, you'll be worried about your son no matter what, but explore your options and work with the dentist so that you feel comfortable about what needs to be done. Good luck!

My son just turnd 3 and he also had to have fillings when he was 2. He was never put under for the procedure, nor did he have the gas. A local anesthetic is all they used. For my son, they did the fillings each at separate appointments so that he doesn't have to sit through the whole thing at once.

Does this dentist specialize in children or are they a family practice? You might want to go to someone who specializes in kids who is used to doing this with little mouths.

My experience is the same as many of the ones below. When my daughter was two, not only did she have cavities, but she had taken a fall and had to have her two front teeth removed. I took the pediatric dentists recommendation and allowed them to put her under anesthesia. She never knew what happened to her. She never had to have the fear and trauma of being strapped to the chair. They got everything done at one time and she acted like nothing happened by the next day. It was a much more anxiety provoking experience for mommy & daddy than it was for her, and all that worry was really for nothing.
The thing that the dentist told me that really pushed me to that decision was that she was too young to understand what was going on and having her aware of what was happening would be a sure way for her to always be afraid of the dentist.
Good luck with your decision!

My two year old had two cavities. He hated getting his teeth brushed, I'd have to sit on him morning and night to get him to be still enough to brush his teeth. Plus he couldn't have milk so extremly watered down juice and water was all he had to drink. We went to a pediatric dentist and he did not have to sedate him. They straped him down and let him watch movies and had toys for him to play with. It was only a matter of minutes before they were done. I just read an article (I don't believe everything I read, but I did read it) that said the anesthetic they use is not good for growing brains. But you have to get the cavities filled so I'd look for a pediatric dentist, they have really fast hands and hope for the best!


Hi L.,

Does your little guy drink a lot of juice or eat sweets? There are natural solutions to help keep your children healthy and prevent them from certain cravings.

I am a wellness consultant and show those that are interested a lifesytle plan for children to get their immune system strong as young ones so they grow up strong and healthy.

He will be fine. Do not show him you are afraid as he will pick up your energy.

The reason why the dentist wants to fill cavities in the baby teeth is to make sure the cavitity does not get bigger and create problems for the permanent tooth coming in.

If you are interested in more info. email me and I will share.

Have a blessed day.

N. Marie

I have an opinion! The ADA (American Dental Assoc.) does not recommend using anesthesia on kids unless medically necessary or the kid freaks out and the procedure is necessary. I would find another pediatric dentist who is willing to try w/o it. That's what we did. THey have the TV screen, headphones, and they tell the child a story about what they are doing. Then they give the topical stuff to numb the gums, and then the novacaine, and if handled well it goes just fine. My son had 8 cavities so we had to have 4 appts and go through this over and over. He was 5 at the time, so that might have helped. But there is no reason to not TRY. It's better to avoid it. Kids are tripping on nitrous oxide gas when they get it and I really think that that can't eb good for little kids!

The 1st dentist we saw actually was unwilling to try w/o gas and kicked us out! So don't be surprised if that happens to you.

My son recently saw a play about a kid who was afraid of the dentist, and then said, "Why would anyone be afraid of the dentist?" I really couldn't believe it - I wanted to say, you would be, if you had been sitting where I was watching you! He doesn't even know that he got a novacaine shot each time because he was watchign the TV. I can recommend someone in Mountain View if you want.

Good luck! Go with your instincts - it's your son!

We moved here to the east bay when my son was 2 years old - he was just diagnosed with autism. I then took my son to a pediatric dentist in the area and he had a lot of dental work that needed to be done - a couple of cavities, caps and a cleaning. We put him under anesthesia because he could not stay still and being autistic - he did not want anything in his mouth. I was scared at first but it was the best thing for him to get everything done at once while he was sleeping. When his procedure was done, it was a little scary to watch him wake up and feel groggy. But I monitored him throughout the day and tried to get him to lay down. But he didn't want to stay still so he kept his head tilted and kept falling on the floor which was a little funny to watch him walk around with his head that way. So try to monitor him after the appt and keep his head down for a few hours if you can. It was the best thing for my son because he doesn't remember a thing and now has some beautiful teeth with no cavities.

Hi L.,
We had the same problem with our oldest son-9 cavaties by 3 yrs old an we had to do a root canal and cap for one-some chilren's teeth are just that way-we love love love and trust our dentist Dr Vivian Lopez in Berkeley-she did the procedure at Children's hospital under their anathesiologists-DON"T unedr any circumstances allow your dentist to do the anastesia-do research there are horror stories of kids not waking up because they gave them too much or couldn't guage it correctly! Dr Lopez was reasonably priced too-we went to 2 other dentist for opinions and they wanted wayyy more money- an she was so good she even sealed the rest of the teeth and we haven't had a cavity since. the Only way you should have him put under is at a qualified hospital... your insurance will pay also even if you don't have dental-they pay hospital-Kaiser did! Good Luck we also waited about 7 months because we thought 2 was too young--L.

HI L.-
I am going to freak out a little bit in your honor this morning. They want to put a 2 year old under for cavities? First and foremost, those teeth are temporary. They will fall out and new ones with permanent roots will grow in their place. 2nd, who suggests that you put a baby under for cavities? Unless he has some serious infection in his mouth, what is the reasoning behind this...I'm sorry for being so forward on this one, but I would get a few more opinions. I would even call your pediatrician and talk to him about the effects of putting your child under. I am a little more 'natural' when it comes to meds- not so much that I refuse them, but more so that I am cautious about the over use of them. I have never personally been put under for ANYthing, regardless of age, and even now do not feel that it is safe for something as minor as a filling or even stitches. Local anesthitetic is better, it wears off faster, and if there are any issues, it can immediately be addressed. If your dentist is doing this to preserve these teeth for a few more years, see if there are other options available for your family before accepting this.
I hope this is helpful!
-E. M.

Hi L.,

When my son was 2, he had three cavities as well. He was completely traumatized because the dentist put him in a papoose, then had three assistants to hold his head, body and legs still. She used a pill and nitrous, which didn't work at all and he screamed and wiggled through the whole procedure. Because my son couldn't sit still, she ended up doing a bad job and another dentist had to fix her work 6 months later.

If I had it to do over, I would opt for the general anesthesia. We have a new dentist who is great, but my son (now 5) still hates going to the dentist and throws a fit each time.

Dear L.,
I dont have any experience really except to say that my six year old has at least one on an upper back tooth. I dont live in the States but this summer while visiting my dentist that I do visit when home said the same thing for my little one. We havent been able to do it here yet. The dentistry here is awful. I would love to hear what everyone else with experience says too!


I wish I had found this earlier. My son, who is four, has never been afraid of the dentist. He's had his teeth cleaned and sat still and smiled through the whole cleaning. They found that he had cavities in his molars which developed as a result of high fevers when he was an infant. I took him to a specialized pediatric dentist today. What a mistake! They gave him a few seconds of nitrous oxide then started drilling. I don't think he was breathing through his nose like he was supposed to, he had NO reaction to the gas at all. The dentist didn't even talk to him through the whole thing. My son started thrashing and screaming like I've never heard him do. I was sure he was in pain. His tooth started bleeding as he drilled it. He popped the fillings in after wrenching his head around and scratching his face with the tool. The little guy was terrified. I didn't stop them because if they did he'd have gaping holes in his teeth and I didn't know what to do. It was over in about five minutes. His little heart was pounding and he was sweating and crying. I almost killed them! I feel so guilty for not stopping them. They told me he was just scared, but he wasn't. He was in pain.

Hi L.,

I would wait. Wait, Wait, Wait, until this child is older. He is still a baby. Wait to see if this tooth is going to fall out before you put in all that money. Anesthesia is not a light matter. I would NOT do it if I were you.

My 6 year old had a cavity and the first molar back from the front. I told the dentist I was going to watch it for a while. I did. I watched it for 3 years! I finally gave in and let him fill it. It had a good size hole in it, but heck, it wasnt hurting anything. The darn tooth fell out 6 months later. And guess what, it never got to the tooth underneath like they claimed it would.

A couple of ideas for you:

Many small and pinpoint cavities can mend themselves. Yes, it's true. Teeth are alive. Have your children take COD LIVER OIL. It is reported to mend small cavities.

Watch out for sugar drinks like juice and cool aid,in sippy cups or bottles. It will do a JOB on enamel quickly because both a sipcup or a bottle is a constant bathing of sugar on the teeth. But also bad is carbs like bread, cereals, etc. They break down into sugar in the mouth while you chew. If you can't brush and are out and about, chew gum with XYLITOL in it. It is anti cavity. If you don't have gum while out and about, take along apples , that would be the next best thing. Anything is better than leaving carbs on the teeth.

If a small child is having a lot of dental problems and discolored enamel, consider a check up for celiacs disease - a disorder where the child is not absorbing nutrients from the intestines. You will also see teeth problem when the child has been put on antibiotics and RELUX/gerd meds because these also mess up absorption.

Hi L.,
I'm a pediatric dentist and I just want to assure you that despite some inherent risks, general anesthesia for dental treatment is safe, and in some cases the best way to get cavities filled with the minimum amount of trauma to your child. That said, however, there are many different options out there for your child. Depending on how severe the cavities are, you can either: 1. watch and monitor them and fix them when your son is older; 2. use a lighter sedation technique such as laughing gas to do the treatment or 3. have the dentist and yourself (or sometimes a blanket) gently hold your son while the fillings are being done. I always think it's important to work within the comfort level of each parent. Some parents prefer anesthesia, while others are very concerned about putting their child to sleep and prefer to do the treatment while their children are awake.

In any case, just make sure that your dentist is a pediatric dentist or very experienced with children and you can always get a second opinion from a pediatric dentist. If you have any questions feel free to message me.

Good luck!

My three-year-old had several cavities last year, but the dentist did not reccommend anaethesia because it was not covered under our insurance and would have cost $1000. The first appointment was very difficult. My daughter screamed and screamed and we had to tie her down. For the second appointment, my mother was with her, and she did much better, didn't cry at all. Maybe my presence was upsetting to her. I was glad that we could get through it without putting her under because I've heard bad things about that. Because your son is young, I would try to avoid it if I were you.

Good luck.

We had this problem with a dentist wanting to put our 4 yr old son under, even for xrays. We chose another dentist who tries other avenues first, and ended up using nitrous instead of putting completely under. If you are uncomfortable with the idea of anesthesia, you may want to get a second opinion as you may have other options.

Hello L.,
Before I would commit to having my little one anesthetized, I would do a little research. If possible find out what will be used.

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