If you’re wondering if it’s really necessary to fill cavities in baby teeth since they’re not permanent, the resounding response by dental professionals is “yes!” The anatomical structure of baby teeth is prone to rapid break down if the dental cavity is left to progress without intervention. This is because the enamel, or the outer most layer, of the baby tooth is much thinner than an adult tooth, thus it can be penetrated faster by bacteria that causes tooth decay.
Not addressing tooth decay in baby teeth can result in painful dental infections, orthodontic issues, difficulty eating and an increased incidence of decay in permanent teeth. Keep in mind that children do not lose their last baby tooth until around the age of 12. The incisors are typically present until six to eight years of age, while the canines and molars are present until your child is 11 to 13 years of age.
When decay is detected, several factors are considered, such as the dental age of the child and the condition of the tooth in question. For example, if an x-ray reveals that the cavity is small and the tooth is soon to be lost, treating the tooth would not be necessary. However, if it appears that the tooth will remain in place for years longer, removing the decay and placing a filling would be most prudent. If the tooth is severely decayed or shows signs of infection, extraction or treatment of the tooth should be considered.
The best way to prepare a child that needs a cavity filled is to familiarize them with the dental treatment. Explain what will happen and play a supportive role. Ask your child’s dentist to explain the process, or to assist you with age-appropriate words and explanation aids. A good dentist will take into account the child’s dental needs, personality and tolerance for treatment. A variety of anesthesia options are available including local and general anesthesia. Sometimes no anesthesia is necessary in cases where the cavity is very small.