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Common Dental Conditions in Infants and Children

Knowledge is your best defense.

Children experience a lot of changes to their oral health, from growing their 'baby' teeth to developing their 'adult' teeth. Helping them practice healthy habits protects their smile through these important life stages. Not only that, but studies show children who have poor oral health miss more school and receive lower grades compared to children who don't.

There are some conditions that affect infants and children in particular that parents should be aware of. And understanding the potential risks can help you protect your child's oral health.


An infant constantly putting fingers or fists in their mouth is a normal habit when their teeth begin growing and breaking through their gums. Teething is also marked by excessive drooling and potentially swollen gums. If you notice your infant is in discomfort or cranky, try giving them hard rubber toys or cold teething toys to chew on.

Thumb sucking

Thumb sucking is a natural reflex for children after birth, but it can pose problems if it continues for too long. Sucking on a thumb puts pressure on your child's mouth and changes how it's shaped, which can lead to misaligned baby and adult teeth. Usually, most children stop sucking their thumbs between two and four years old. Talk to your child's dentist if they're still sucking their thumb as their baby teeth come in. A dentist will be able to monitor their tooth development and suggest ways to discourage thumb sucking.

Losing Teeth

Children should take steps to protect their teeth by wearing a mouthguard when playing sports. Mouthguards are plastic retainers that protect your teeth in the event of any contact. Mouthguards are available over the counter, but a dentist may be able to make a custom-fit mouthguard. Talk to your child's dentist about what's best.

Tooth decay (cavities)

Tooth decay is one of the most common diseases in children in the country. About 20% of children aged 5 to 11 years and 13% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years have at least one decayed tooth that isn't being treated. Untreated tooth decay can cause pain and infections that lead to issues eating, speaking and/or learning.

Thankfully, tooth decay can be effectively prevented with some simple daily habits, depending on your child's age. For infants, wipe gums twice a day with a soft, clean cloth in the morning after the first feeding and right before bed. When their teeth come in, brush them twice a day with a soft toothbrush and plain water. For older children, make sure they brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss and use mouthwash often.

No matter what age your child is, routine visits to the dentist are always recommended. A dentist can examine for any potential issues before symptoms develop and give teeth a deeper cleaning. Remember, all BCBS FEP Dental members enjoy covered in-network preventive care, including up to three dental cleanings a year. To find an in-network provider near you, try our Find a Provider tool.