As pediatric dental professionals, one of the most frequent questions we get is:
“Why do we fix baby teeth if they are going to fall out anyway?”
There are many different reasons why dentists fix baby teeth with cavities. In this blog post, we are going to review how and why pediatric dentists offer baby tooth decay treatment. To introduce the topic, here is a video in which Dr. Jason Horgesheimer explains why it’s important to fix teeth.
What are Baby Teeth?
Primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, are the first set of teeth that everyone starts out with in life. The majority of people (about 60 percent) will experience at least some level of baby tooth decay during childhood. Because baby teeth are only temporary, many people believe they are not as important as adult teeth. This is an absolute myth.
Primary teeth are not going to be there for the child’s entire lifetime, but they are not expendable. Untreated cavities in baby teeth can cause very serious harm in the short term. In the long term, untreated baby teeth cavities can cause a negative impact on how the child’s mouth develops. Keep reading as we take a deeper dive into what baby tooth decay is and how it’s treated.
Childhood Tooth Decay is a Common Issue
Five times more common than asthma. Four times more common than childhood obesity. Twenty times more common than childhood diabetes. What exactly are we talking about here? Baby tooth decay.
Tooth decay is the technical term for an acid attack that affects tooth enamel. Untreated tooth decay leads to cavities, which is another term for holes in the teeth. When it comes to baby teeth decay treatment, the cavities are treated with fillings which are used to help keep the holes from getting worse or spreading.
What Can Happen When Baby Teeth Decay is Left Untreated?
Tooth decay needs to be stopped in its tracks. When tooth decay is not treated by dental professionals, the teeth can become completely riddled with cavities. Children who have cavities affecting their primary teeth face many different health risks, including:
- The child’s overall nutrition may be affected by an impediment on their ability to eat healthy food
- The child could develop an overbite or other bite alignment problems that can require an appliance to fix
- Adult teeth could face difficulty growing in normally
- Speech impediments can be caused by untreated tooth decay, which can lower a child’s self-esteem
- Severe tooth pain could be experienced – which will only worsen without treatment
- Infections can occur that can affect surrounding teeth and cause more cavities
What are the Symptoms of Baby Teeth with Cavities?
It’s pretty obvious when a child has cavities in their baby teeth. However, your child needs to be evaluated by a pediatric dental professional in order to accurately diagnose and treat cavities in baby teeth. If your child is experiencing any of the following symptoms, you should call our pediatric dental office at (801) 281-8881 to schedule an appointment.
- Pain below the gum line around or below teeth
- Pain in a tooth when brushing or chewing
- Visible discolorations, holes, or dark spots on teeth
- Increased sensitivity to either hot or cold temperatures
- Bad breath that is constant and not alleviated by consistent brushing or mouthwash
Baby Teeth with Cavities Should Get Fillings
Even though primary teeth are not permanent, they are the only teeth that your child will have for many years – until their full set of adult teeth have come in. Baby teeth decay treatment is done in order to preserve your child’s oral health. These baby teeth with decay should not just be pulled, because they will help guide the permanent teeth to come in properly.
What Types of Fillings are Used for Cavities in Baby Teeth?
Just like adult teeth are treated, baby teeth fillings will either be made out of metal or white composite. There are other types of materials for fillings and crowns such as ceramic and gold, however, these are rarely used in fillings for primary teeth. Many parents choose metal fillings because they are quicker to apply and less expensive than white composite fillings. A child might not like the idea of a metal filling, but it is a cost-effective method of treating a tooth that is going to eventually fall out. Furthermore, the type of insurance you carry may not cover white composite fillings – or do so at an increased cost.
How are the Primary Teeth Cavities Treated?
Your pediatric dentist will gently drill the cavity in your child’s baby teeth as necessary. Next, your dentist will either create a crown or fill the tooth, depending on how extensive the tooth decay is. After the cavity has been fixed, it’s important that the child continues to practice good oral hygiene to care for crowns or fillings.
Baby Teeth Decay Can Return
No matter how hard your dentist works to remove all of the tooth decay, it can become a recurring issue. Teeth that are most likely to experience a recurrence of tooth decay are the ones with cavities between them – rather than those with cavities present only on surface areas. If tooth decay returns on a primary tooth, your pediatric dentist will need to remove the filling and re-fill the tooth.
Trauma and Other Problems May Also Require Pediatric Dental Treatment of Baby Teeth
Tooth decay is not the only reason children need fillings on baby teeth. Sometimes a child may experience a type of trauma that can cause a crack in the tooth which may also need to be filled. Other problems children experience that can require treatment include:
- Incorrectly shaped teeth
- Underdeveloped teeth
- Chipped Teeth
Crowns are often used instead of fillings to correct these types of issues.
In Some Cases, Tooth Extraction is Necessary
In order to maintain the right amount of space needed for adult teeth to come in, it’s always best to preserve baby teeth and repair them as needed. However, there are some cases in which your dentist will have no other option than to pull a baby tooth early. If the tooth decay has become so extensive that it’s causing pain and gum issues, extraction may be the best option. In this case, your dentist may opt to fill that gap with a prosthetic in order to maintain the right amount of space for adult teeth to come in.
Sometimes Kids Get Laughing Gas
Dentists may sometimes opt to use nitrous oxide, or laughing gas when treating cavities in children. For some children, the administration of laughing gas can reduce anxiety and distract a child from the pain caused by the Novocaine shot and the drilling of the teeth. Laughing gas does not work for all kids, so an orally-administered sedative may be needed in certain cases.
The Number of Fillings Done in One Sitting Depends on the Kid
When a child goes to the dentist to have cavities filled, sometimes they will get only one done and other times they will get several done at a time. This all depends on the kid and the extent of the tooth decay. Some children do better at sitting in a chair for prolonged periods of time, while others don’t. The ultimate goal is always to do what’s best for the child, which may require several appointments for the baby teeth decay dental treatments.
Does Your Child Have a Cavity or Tooth Decay?
Our pediatric dentists are here to help you. If your child is experiencing pain or has obvious cavities, make an appointment today at Redwood Pediatric Dentistry. Call us today at (801) 281-8881 to set up an appointment.