Cavities in 4 Year Old

Updated on August 19, 2010
D.P. asks from Greenville, NC
16 answers

My son had a dental pre-screening yesterday, and the dentist said that, from just looking in his mouth with a flashlight, that there are 2 obvious cavities, and that he needed to see a dentist right away. They recommended fillings, a cleaning, and sealants. Seriously?? I could be clueless- but it just seems pointless to me. I don't ever remember going to the dentist until I got my permanent teeth in. My husband also said that he never went to the dentist as a small child either- it was just something that wasn't done when we were kids. I guess I just don't see the point of putting my son through all that trauma. I asked him if he teeth or mouth hurt, and he said no. For you other moms, did you get the cavities filled , or did you just let it go? What was the outcome? I would love to hear stories, whether good or bad.
Oh and I am 35 and haven't ever had a cavity. Maybe that is why I am so reluctant to take this too seriously...

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So What Happened?

I listened to what you all had to say, and I will make an appointment to have him looked at. We do brush his teeth everyday with a flouride toothpaste. I don't do sugary drinks or candy, except on occasion. I guess it's just genetics- his dad has terrible teeth while I have wonderful teeth. The dentist says it's just mouth chemistry.

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answers from Nashville on

My daughter is 7 and just had her first dental appointment in May. Fortunately, she doesn't have any cavities, but she does have sealants on her teeth. I would get them cleaned, but if the cavities aren't bothering him, I wouldn't do much more.


answers from Oklahoma City on

I let it go at first, (i too have never had a cavity) then just weeks later, she couldn't even eat without bleeding really bad, and could not touch her teeth with a brush on that tooth with out bleeding. the first dentist did not clean and fill well so her gum literally had an infection that popped up over night and looked like a big pussy zit in her gum, and both teeth have been pulled so the infection did not affect her adult teeth and she now has to wear a spacer until the adult teeth come in.

i would not blow it off...if that cavity gets infected and down into his gums it COULD affect his adult teeth

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answers from Gainesville on

The primary teeth are very important. They hold space in the mouth for the permanent teeth. If you let a cavity go it could very easily abscess and then you are talking pain, infection, and more invasive treatment.

And your teeth are reflective of your overall health. Teaching your child now to take proper care of his primary teeth and addressing the needs of his primary teeth will set the precedent for healthy permanent teeth.

Because you've never had a cavity it's strange to me that is the reason you question whether you should take this seriously. You were fortunate. But you are being told that your little one has dental needs that need to be addressed so follow up on the screening and have your son checked out.

Seek out a pediatric dentist. They spend an extra 2 years beyond dental school to specialize in the treatment of children and their special dental needs. This includes making it a comfortable experience for the little ones.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Provo on

those cavities can effect his adult teeth and could cause infections to spread elsewhere in the body. Get it checked out and now. Go to a ped dentist.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

If he has cavities, they need to be filled. They can get worse and require more treatment, and yes, pain. My cavities never hurt, and I have let them go before and required root canals in now 4 of my teeth. My niece had to have root canals when she was 5 or 6. I had my DD get the sealants when she was 6 and she hasn't had a cavity yet and she's almost 10.

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answers from San Diego on

My son is 9. He has genetically weak teeth. He has had a cavity (if not more) in almost every baby tooth he has. He's had to have several root canals and has one crown. One tooth got infected and caused him extreme pain. No it was not because we denied him care or put it off! We didn't know he had a cavity and he got misdiagnosed as the beginnings of an ear infection by the dr and the dentists(yes plural) was an insurance mess that sent us all over town and finally ended up on a Saturday at a non-covered dentist we chose when his whole face swelled, fever spiked etc and I'd sat in the rocking chair with him all night as he screamed in pain. That is the tooth with the crown. Do not buy into the thinking that they are only baby teeth, it doesn't matter if they fall out/get taken out early! Some of those teeth they have until they are 12+. They need the teeth in their mouth as long as naturally possible so their jaws and facial structure forms correctly. It effects their speech and a world of other issues. Had we stayed with the first ped dentist or insurance sent us to that wanted to pull the lot and not just fix them my son would be toothless in no time. Thankfully we stuck with the dentist that believes in keeping teeth in the mouth, no matter what it cost us(we got a waiver from insurance after filing a formal complaint against the first but that's another story).
Just as a comparison, my second son is 6 and has had 3 super small cavities in his entire life. We did choose to fill them becuase we never want to inflict that same suffering on my children ever again. My third is 14 months old and we'll probably bring her in soon just to make sure she stays healthy.
I went to the dentist all the time as a young child as did my husband. He also has the genetically weak teeth my first son has and my MIL said it took everything to just keep his teeth in his mouth as a child. The good news, his adult teeth came in much stronger and without the problems so we're hoping the adult teeth my son has are the same and have been getting sealants on everything we can as a precaution.
The trauma of a dental visit and a couple small fillings far outweights what my son went through!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Louisville on

yes they need to be taken care of if not they will just get worse then it will be 10 times more traumatic.... just wondering do you brush his teeth everyday if not you need to it doesnt sound like hes brushing well enough you may need to help him



answers from Nashville on

Here's my advice from my husband, who is a dentist. You don't want to wait until it starts hurting him or the tooth becomes absessed because then he most likely will have to have his tooth pulled and it could be a very painful ordeal from start to finish. Then your child's first experience with a dentist is negative and that will set the foundation for his fear of dentists and hatred of going to the office. Both of our daughters have sealants and have been getting their teeth cleaned every 6 months since they were 3 and we have had no problems. Oh and my oldest (5 1/2) hit her tooth in January and it became absessed in April. It got so bad so quickly we had to go to an oral surgeon to have it extracted b/c my husband didn't want to traumatize her himself and she did amazing. She had never met this doctor but knew he was just a dentist like Daddy and wasn't going to hurt her but make her tooth feel better. I say make the appointment to see the Dentist (go to a Pediatric dentist- it's more fun for the kids and they know best how to make it a positive experience for you and your son). Best wishes!



answers from Nashville on

I have a four year old who has a small cavity on his front tooth. It was discovered when he was 2 and before I started using flouride toothpaste. I take him to the dentist every 6 months and we are adamant about brushing twice a day with a flouride toothpaste. So far, the cavity has gotten worse and our dentist recommended that we wait and see. Our dentist said it is not the conventional wisdom anymore to "wait and see" but that he doesn't like to put young kids through the trauma unless they are in pain due to the cavity. I would seek a second opinion. My dentist also told me that a cavity in baby teeth will not affect permanent teeth. That being said, I recently took my 7 year old nephew (who we recently got temporary custody of) to the same dentist and he has a deep cavity in one baby tooth (he had never been to the dentist before and did not brush his teeth regularly). Our dentist recommends a filling on this tooth because it is a bad cavity. The difference between a 7 year old and a 4 year old is big. The dentist feels like the 7 year old can handle the procedure. I do think it is a good idea to take young kids to the dentist every 6 months just to get used to going to the dentist. My son generally does well, but at one appointment, he didn't want the hygienist to clean his teeth so she didn't push it with him. You need to find the right dentist.


answers from Lansing on

I would be worried that if you let his cavities go it could be bad. I'm not an expert, but the idea of letting it go just seems like it might cause problems in his gums and roots. Especially since 4 years old seems too young to start having cavities.

My kids are age 12, 10, 9 and 8 and they've never had cavities. We began taking our kids to the dentist at about age 1 and they have gone for every 6 month checkup since then. I think there are so many advantages to taking your kids in when they are younger. The biggest thing is that my kids actually enjoy going to the dentist and having their teeth cleaned. They love their dentist (only ever had one dentist see them) and understand how important it is to take care of their teeth.

I'm about the same age as you and I never went to a dentist until I was in middle school. I disagree with this, but that's how it was for my family. At my first dental appointment I found out I had 4 cavities and thankfully, I've never had any since.

Good luck!



answers from Washington DC on

My 3y daughter had 4 cavaties on her 4 back teeth discovered during her first check with her pediatric dentist. 2 were recommended to be filled. I went ahead and did it because she will have those teether for at least 8 more years.

When the time came the dentist wouldn't let me stay in the room. I was mad! Before I could threaten to cancel the appt., he did. So I stood just outside the room. She did fine. Was a bit loopy from the anesthetic all day, but she did great.



answers from Nashville on

if a tooth absesses it can cause a brain infection. and you don't want the perm teeth buds to get damaged. poor gum care can also lead to heat problems. go to the dds. good luck R., mom of 7



answers from Springfield on

My 3/12 year old has a cavity that I can see. I took him to a ped. dentist and he told me that he would do a few cleanings and check ups to get him used to a dentist before he would even think about trying to fill it.

On the other hand a friend of mine's 4 year old had to have 7 caps and one tooth pulled (they knocked her out and did it all at once so she wouldn't be tramatized).

That being said, I would take him to a good ped. dentist and talk with him about it.



answers from Boston on

Cavities are painful and get worse with time. Your son will have these teeth for a few years yet, do you want him to be in worsening pain for years? If you have doubts about him having cavities then nothing wrong with getting a second opinion. As for sealants, I don't think those are always necessary. My neighbor spent $3000 to get sealants for her 4 year old because the dentist insisted, which was very traumatic for him. After talking to many other moms after the fact she found out that this particular dentist tried to put sealants on every kid and weren't necessarily needed. She was peeved to say the least.

I do think its important to take them to the dentist this young, and important to take care of the cavities if he has them. I grew up not going to the dentist all that often but when I did I had many cavities that needed filling which is awful (novocaine, drilling, ugh). But they had to be filled because it hurt to chew food. I wish my mother was more strict about our dental hygeine as kids. Its better to teach good habits now rather than later.


answers from Memphis on

I thought the same thing when the dentist wanted to put crowns on my sons baby teeth. However, he told me that bad baby teeth can adversely affect permanent teeth. So we had the work done. Sealants are a great idea, they do help to prevent cavities.

When we were in the military, our children started being covered at 4 and that's when I started them going to the dentist. Trust your dentist. It may seem crazy to treat teeth that are just going to fall out but it will have an impact on his 'big boy teeth' if you ignore it.



answers from Raleigh on

Please please please dont think baby teeth are not important!!! People think that just because they fall out that they dont need to be taken care of...soooo not ture. I am a dental assistant and see children in our office all the time. Baby teeth serve many purposes including helping adult teeth form and erupt in the correct place.Baby teeth need to be cleaned at the dentist just like adults do. If they do have cavities, they do need to be filled (unless they are close to falling out but a 4 year old is nowhere near lossing teeth.) Sealant are recommended if they have deep grooves in their teeth or if proper hygiene is a problem. A 4 year old isnt able to clean their teeth properly, you should still be brushing ( and flossing) his teeth for him. Let him do it first then "check to see if he did an excellent job" (that is what i do with my boys) If you let baby teeth decay and have to come out too early, the adult teeth will have trouble erupting because the teeth move too close to each other and have no room to come in. If you son is relutant to go you may want to try a pediatric dentist instead. Their offices are designed to make it more fun and less scary for younger kids. Also if need be some have nitrious for certain treatment needs. I live in Raleigh too so I can give you some names if you want.

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