As with adult teeth, cavities in baby teeth are marked by white, brown, or black discolourations. If you see this in your baby’s teeth, you may be wondering if it needs to be treated and filled.
The common thinking is that, since baby teeth will eventually fall off anyway, these cavities or decays need not be treated. However, keep in mind that decay is filled with bacteria that may spread to surrounding teeth and even the incoming adult teeth.
So, even though baby teeth are temporary, they are important for long-term excellent oral health as your baby grows and develops. Ultimately, decay and cavities on baby teeth need to be treated and restored. But, this comes with some reservations.
Here’s what you should know about cavities in baby teeth and if and when they need to be filled:
What happens if you don’t fill a cavity on a baby tooth?
Baby teeth are made with thinner enamel. This is the outermost layer of the tooth that protects it from bacteria and acids causing decay. Because of this, compared to adult teeth, baby teeth are more prone to deteriorate leading to decay and cavities.
Baby teeth with cavities or decay need urgent treatment with dental fillings. The earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the better the chances of saving the tooth. Leaving it untreated for even just a few weeks can lead to the progress of decay. Eventually, fillings will no longer suffice and pulp treatment or tooth extraction may be necessary to prevent the spread of infection.
Treating cavities in baby teeth preserves not just the tooth but also the surrounding and the succeeding permanent tooth. Untreated decay can cause infection in the adult tooth before it even comes out. In this case, the permanent tooth may have delayed eruption or may not even come out at all.
When will a Cavity Not Require Filling?
If you spot any signs of cavities or decay, the best thing to do is to bring your child to a pediatric dentist for proper assessment. Early treatment will mean all the difference between saving or losing the tooth.
However, not all decay needs treatment. Usually, white spots on the teeth will remineralize when good oral hygiene and proper diet are established and maintained. Baby teeth are incredibly resilient and will reverse decay if caught and managed early.
But this is not always the case. Children are either still incapable or are not disciplined enough to keep their oral health in check. They are yet to establish routines so it may be hard to get them to brush their teeth often.
Unless your child’s pediatric dentist determines that white spot decay has a good chance of remineralizing, getting a dental filling to preserve the tooth is more recommended for children.
How Do I Spot When My Child Requires Dental Fillings For Cavities?
The common symptoms of tooth decay and cavities are:
- Brown or black spots on the tooth
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks
- Visible holes or pits in the tooth
- Pain when you bite down
Regular dental visits play an important role in keeping your child cavity-free as they grow older. With frequent check-ups, the dentist can spot early signs of cavities and provide treatment as soon as possible.
What are my Treatment Options if My Child Has Cavities?
The possible treatments for a baby tooth with cavities depend on how deep the cavity already is and how soon the incoming tooth is from coming out. Here are some recommendations that your pediatric dentist may consider:
Fluoride helps with enamel remineralization to stop the progress of budding decay. It also enhances the strength of the rest of the teeth by protecting them against the effects of acid in the mouth which may cause cavities. For children, fluoride treatment is recommended every 6 months to keep the teeth strong and cavity-free.
If the cavity has already infected a significant amount of tooth structure, a dental filling will help restore it to good health. At Springbank Hill Dental, we use tooth-coloured fillings. There are also fluoride-releasing fillings that can help prevent future decay by reinforcing the resistance of the tooth to decay.
A crown is recommended if there is a moderate-sized cavity and a dental filling will not be sufficient to restore the tooth. With this treatment, a dental cap is placed over the entire tooth. This will protect it from further damage, improve its appearance, and allow it to function normally until the adult tooth is ready to come out.
Baby Root Canals or Pulp Treatment
However, if simple dental fillings will no longer work, such as if the decay is too large and has reached deeper into the tooth, root canals are the next option. This involves removing the infected pulp tissue and cleaning the tooth. Then, a filling or crown is placed to complete the treatment.
However, for other cavities that are already too large, extraction may be a better option to prevent further spread of infection. Extraction may also be recommended if the tooth is already loose because of the incoming adult tooth. This will speed up the movement of the adult tooth into the mouth.
Fortunately, kid-friendly protocols are in place at Springbank Hill Dental to make dental procedures a positive experience. This includes sedation dentistry which involves the use of oral sedation, IV sedation, or laughing gas. These are administered in safe doses to render your child in a “sleepy” state so our dentist can safely render the necessary treatments.
Family Dentist in Calgary
Springbank Hill Dental prides itself as one of the leading family-centred dental practices in Calgary. With our comprehensive range of dental services and specialized treatments in dentistry, we can cater to the oral health needs of all members of the family.
Discover what quality dental care is with Springbank Hill Dental. Schedule your family for a consult today!