Early Childhood Cavities

Early Childhood Cavities

There is a wide misunderstanding that baby teeth don’t get cavities. Or even worse that when baby teeth get cavities they do not need to be repaired with dental fillings because the teeth are going to fall out. The first baby teeth to fall out happens around 6-7 years of age. However, the molars and canine teeth can be in the mouth until the child is 12 years old (sometimes longer).

Just Like Adult Teeth

Baby teeth are just like adult teeth except smaller.
The teeth contain a nerve pulp and are covered by enamel just like adult teeth.
Cavities occur in the enamel of the teeth.
The dentist cleans out the bacteria on the tooth surface and then places a filling on the tooth. Remember, cavities can occur anywhere on the tooth. That means they can occur on the top (Chewing surface), or on all four sides of the tooth.
If cavities go untreated on primary teeth they they continue to grow and destroy the tooth more.

There are two major reasons why it is recommended to have fillings placed on primary teeth.

PAIN: Cavities can cause a significant amount of pain. The child can develop a bad infection in the nerve of the tooth (just like an adult would). This would require further treatment for the child in order to repair their infected tooth. It may or may not also involve the requirement of a round of antibiotics. Depending on how severe the infection is.
DEVELOPMENT: Baby teeth hold the space in the jaw for the adult teeth. If a child were to lose their baby teeth early because of cavities or infection then there is no longer proper space being held for those adult teeth that are still under the gums. Teeth can move and shift forward into empty spaces available in the mouth. This can cause more crowding or prevent the eruption of certain adult teeth.

When is a dental filling is not necessary?

Occasionally the dentist will advise the parent that a cavity was detected and noted but the dentist can feel that the tooth is slightly loose or can see in the x-rays that the adult tooth is close to pushing that baby tooth out of the mouth. In this case the dentist would advise against placing a filling on this tooth because it will be falling out of the mouth soon
The dentist always examines each tooth for any cavities. Then they look at the most current set of radiographs to see if the decay is present on the x-ray. They look at the overall picture of the child, age, radiographs and intra-orally to determine the best treatment option.

Sources:

Darby and Walsh

photo: https://blog.sesamehub.com/gorczyca-annmarie/files/2016/01/tooth-model-543.jpg