Your child just went in for their regular teeth cleaning exam, and the dentist discovered some cavities in their baby teeth. You may think that because your child will lose their baby teeth eventually you may not need to have cavities in baby teeth filled. But having cavities in baby teeth filled can be a great thing for your child’s overall oral health. Read on to learn more!
Should Cavities in Baby Teeth be Filled?
The short answer to the question, “Should cavities in baby teeth be filled?” is “yes.” Here are a few reasons why:
Baby teeth must function well for many years
A child will get their first baby teeth often within their first year of life. These teeth are crucial for how your child transitions to solid food and for how they form words and speech.
And while your child will eventually lose all their baby teeth, they will need them for the majority of their young childhood. Your child will experience several phases of losing baby teeth as the adult teeth erupt. These phases start as early as five and can continue until they are twelve or thirteen.
In other words, there are some baby teeth your child will need for chewing until they are in their pre-teen years. So even if you want to wait until the tooth falls out, it could easily be a two to three year wait, and the cavity can cause pain or other problems for your child in the meantime.
Baby teeth help hold space and guide adult teeth as they erupt
Not only do your child’s baby teeth play a critical role in how they eat and chew, they’re “placeholders” for adult teeth as they erupt. Adult teeth erupt in phases throughout your child’s life, with adult front teeth (incisors) typically leading the way around five or six years old, and adult back teeth (molars) erupting around twelve or thirteen.
So a healthy baby tooth is important for how your child’s adult teeth will come in. Losing baby teeth too early can lead to bigger problems with how adult teeth erupt later.
Cavities in baby teeth can lead to infection and affect your child’s overall health
Another reason that baby teeth should have tooth fillings is because unchecked cavities, combined with poor oral hygiene, can lead to even bigger problems, including infection and pain. There are many studies linking infection or disease in the mouth to other health conditions in the body. Filling baby teeth (and helping your child keep up with good oral hygiene habits) can have a positive effect on your child’s overall health.
Cavities in Baby Teeth
If your dentist discovers a cavity in your child’s teeth, filling the cavity can be a relatively quick experience. But it can also be a scary time for your child (many fear the idea of a numbing shot, or the sound of the drill). A great pediatric dentist and staff will work hard to make sure your child feels as at ease as possible.
Some offices may even offer nitrous oxide or “laughing gas” for anxious children, though it should be noted that laughing gas doesn’t work for every kid (just like it doesn’t work for every adult). For very nervous children, your dentist may opt to offer an oral sedative instead. They’ll discuss every option with you beforehand so the process goes smoothly and relatively painlessly for your child.
Filling a baby tooth is much like the process for filling an adult tooth. The dentist will likely take an x-ray at the appointment before the filling appointment, or at the filling appointment itself. Then, they’ll apply a topical numbing gel to the area they need to numb with Novacaine and a needle. That way the initial “stick” isn’t so bad, and your child is more likely to hold still for this part of the process.
Next, the dentist will drill out the decayed part of the baby tooth and refill with a composite (tooth colored) material, or sometimes an amalgam (metal) filling. The type of filling typically depends on your dentist’s preference and how big the cavity is. Sometimes metal caps are used for back baby teeth that have significant decay. But again, your dentist will discuss everything with you before your child’s filling appointment.
Your child will feel numbness for the next hour or so, and may need some time to nap if an oral sedative was used. The new filling should last for at least the next five years (or more, depending on the material) and will be checked at each six month dental visit.
Sometimes kids will need fillings for other reasons besides tooth decay, like chips or cracks in the teeth. They also sometimes may need the tooth pulled after all, depending on the extent of the decay or damage. Every child and case is different, but your dentist will make sure that the treatment plan leaves your child in the best possible oral health.
Preventing cavities in baby teeth isn’t always possible, but chances improve when you take your child to the dentist for check ups early on (even babies and toddlers can have quick appointments to check for development issues or other potential problems). Chances also improve when your child establishes great oral care habits when they’re young.
When they’re very small and still developing their motor skills, they’ll need help from a parent with brushing and flossing. As they age, they can take over this important twice-daily task for themselves. There are some great kid-friendly apps to help with brushing for two minutes, or you could make brushing a family affair and you all brush at once. You can also have a “tooth brushing song” that lasts for two minutes, or establish a game or competition of your own to get your child excited about brushing.
Whatever good habits they develop in childhood can have a positive impact on their oral health as teenagers and adults. Start early and get your child in the routine of regular dental checkups. They’ll thank you later, we promise!
Professional Pediatric Teeth Cleaning Exams and Check Ups in Columbus Ohio
We are proud to offer professional pediatric dentistry, teeth cleaning exams and tooth fillings for your child in Central Ohio. Contact us today to learn more!
Remember: The above information is to be used as general guidelines and you should not use this information to diagnose yourself. If you are concerned about your teeth, you should contact our Clintonville, Ohio dentists for a thorough dental exam.
Tooth Filling Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Tooth Fillings
Professional Tooth Fillings in Columbus Ohio
We are proud to offer professional dentistry, teeth cleaning exams and tooth fillings to our patients in Central Ohio. Contact us today to learn more!