Tiny Teeth Truths


By Irwine Sainvil, DDS, MS


  1. What causes tooth decay?

Tooth decay (or dental caries) is a multifactorial process that can result from poor oral hygiene, poor dietary choices, medical history and use of medications, lack of fluoride use, smoking and genetics, to name a few.

  • Is tooth decay preventable?

Yes, dental caries can be prevented by maintaining a proper oral health regimen.

  • What is considered good oral health?

Good oral health is when the appropriate oral care techniques are consistently practiced, such as brushing a minimum of two times a day, flossing at least once a day, using a mouth rinse, eating a well-balanced diet low in fermentable carbohydrates, and visiting a dentist every 6 months.

  • How can a well-balanced diet protect a child’s teeth from cavities?

A well-balanced diet includes 2-3 servings of fruit and vegetables, grains, and protein daily. Check to see how frequently your child is snacking and reduce it to 2-3 healthy snacks a day (i.e., carrots, apples). Limit juice to only ONE CUP of juice per day, and preferably water down the juice. Shop smart, and stock your pantry wisely.

  • By what age should children begin to see the dentist?

Parents should establish a dental home for infants by the child’s first birthday, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. The earlier the visit, the better!

  • What is a dental home?

A dental home provides individualized comprehensive, continuous, and coordinated oral health care. Each patient undergoes a caries-risk and periodontal disease risk assessment that follows up with prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and management.

  • Are baby teeth really that important?

Baby teeth are the foundation for good oral health care and help children speak clearly and chew naturally. Encouraging a child to practice good oral health care techniques and eating habits will carry into their adulthood. A lifetime of healthy habits is the key!

Yes, they will fall out, but baby teeth fall out at certain ages. For example, a second baby molar that comes in around 24 months of age is expected to fall out when the child is between 11-12 years old. Therefore, lack of a dental home or lack of treatment can lead to various complications – such as pain, dental abscess, bad breath, and facial swelling – that Pediatric Dentists see quite often. 

  • What is a Pediatric Dentist?

Pediatric Dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. They are dedicated to the oral health care of infants through adolescence, including infants and children with special health needs. This specialty requires an additional two to three years of study after graduation from dental school and includes advanced training in diagnostic and surgical procedures along with child psychology and clinical management, oral pathology, child development, management of oral/facial trauma, sedation, and hospital dentistry.

  • Are dental X-rays necessary for children?

Dental X-rays are a diagnostic tool that helps pediatric dentists identify cavities, oral pathology, fractures from trauma, and orthodontic abnormalities. For kids, we call it our “camera.” We exercise all precautions to limit their radiation exposure, which is very minimal from dental x-rays. In fact, we receive more radiation from the sun than from dental x-rays.

  1. As a parent who is afraid of going to the dentist, what are some ways to prevent my child from being afraid as well?

Many Pediatric Dentists understand that dental anxiety results from past bad experiences, but in the 21st century, pediatric dentistry has become much more modernized. It offers various techniques that provide a comfortable and friendly atmosphere for a child.

We do recommend refraining from words such as “needles”, “shots”, “pull out”, “hurt”, or “drill a hole,” which can lead to dental fear and a more or less bad dental visit. Allow the doctor to guide the behavior management, because they’re pretty good at disguising and hiding our tools.

  1. Can nursing cause cavities?

Yes, nighttime breastfeeding with no brushing can cause tooth decay. Nursing is important for the development of an infant, but pediatric dentists stress the importance of brushing or wiping baby’s gums and teeth right before bedtime. Any unswallowed liquid in the mouth feeds bacteria and produces an acid that attacks the teeth. Have your infant drink water right before bedtime.

  1. How can I protect my child’s teeth if they play sports?

Sports-related injuries are prevalent amongst athletes. Mouthguards can provide protection to your child’s teeth, lips, and face and help prevent a sports injury. Please visit your local dentist for evaluation of a mouthguard.

  1. What complications can arise from thumb/finger sucking and pacifier use?

Although it provides a sense of comfort for babies, prolonged thumb/finger and pacifier use can change the shape of the upper arch and position of teeth. Most kids stop the habit on their own. If your child persists with it, try to DISCOURAGE it by age THREE or ask your dentist for creative ideas.

About Dr. Irwine Sainvil:

Dr. Irwine Sainvil, is a Haitian-American Board-Certified Pediatric Dentist currently practicing in South Florida, her hometown. She received her dental education from Meharry Medical College and residency training from Boston University. A dream that was fostered at twelve years old, Dr. Sainvil is now an accredited Pediatric Dentist, business owner, oral health educator, and mentor.

Contact information: isainvildds@gmail.com