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Fillings in Baby Teeth: Are They Really Necessary?

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Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

As a parent, it’s common to have a million (or more!) questions about your child’s health. Do baby teeth need fillings? What happens to untreated cavities in baby teeth? These are excellent questions to ask, we’ve laid out the answers to these and more so you understand how to treat and prevent cavities for children.

Facts About Childhood Cavities

Primary teeth (also called baby teeth) start coming into your child’s mouth at around six months of age at a rate of about two teeth per six months. These teeth remain until their permanent (also called adult) teeth erupt.

Many parents assume that, because they’re temporary, dental problems with primary teeth aren’t as big of a concern as problems with permanent teeth. Unfortunately, this is not the case – you should treat your child’s oral routine as carefully as your own, even when they only have their primary teeth.

Cavities occur when your child’s teeth are not adequately cleaned or their diet is too heavy in sugar or acidic items. Food matter, acidity, and bacteria contribute to plaque and can break down the hard outer layer of their teeth, known as the enamel, leading to a cavity. Additionally, this plaque can harden into tartar that causes gum disease and can’t be removed without professional assistance.

Fillings in Baby Teeth: Yes or No?

You should take your child’s cavities (also known as caries) in their primary teeth just as seriously as you should take them in permanent teeth – meaning, you should seek the assistance of your dental professional as soon as possible for diagnosis, treatment, and to avoid other issues.

In short, fillings in your child’s primary teeth are typically just as necessary as fillings in permanent teeth.

It’s essential to care for your child’s primary teeth due to a diversity of reasons:

  • Untreated cavities can cause discomfort and pain.
  • Cavities can lead to other dental problems, including infection.
  • Your child’s dental health affects other biological systems and their overall health.
  • The presence of cavities may suggest underlying concerns that should be addressed, like a poor diet or improper dental health care.
  • Poor dental care in childhood predicts poor dental health care later in life.
  • Children use healthy teeth to perform important functions, like speaking and eating.

Luckily, cavities are preventable and usually treatable through a simple procedure known as a filling. Stick around, and we’ll discuss the procedure in more detail below.

Pediatric Dental Filling Process

Fillings are a crucial procedure to remedy cavities and prevent the condition from worsening or leading to other dental problems. After removing infected material from your child’s tooth and cleaning it, your dental professional will fill their cavity.

The material used in the filling will vary depending on the severity and location of the cavity. Whatever material is used will harden to protect their bite and tooth while providing structural support and helping the tooth’s appearance. A filling will help prevent other, potentially costly, dental issues for your child, like an infection.

Fillings may or may not require the use of a local anesthetic that’s typically injected with a needle to numb the affected area. Procedures performed with a laser may not require numbing, while those performed only with a drill often will. This will depend on your child’s personal health history, comfort, and your dental professional’s choice of approach.

Helpful tip: Rest assured that dental professionals are specially trained to help your child relax. There are even pediatric dental specialists available.

Preventing Childhood Cavities

The power to avoid cavities in the future is in your hands, simply by practicing proper dental care and diet. To prevent your child from developing additional cavities, you should:

  • Role-model a proper dental routine yourself to set a good example.
  • Avoid putting infants to sleep with their bottle.
  • Only fill their bottle with milk or formula instead of beverages like soft or sports drinks.
  • Supervise their oral care routine until they are old enough to perform it properly themselves (usually, until they are six or seven, according to the American Dental Association).
  • Clean your infant’s or toddler’s teeth using a child’s toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Offer healthy foods and educate them on avoiding overly sugary or acidic foods and drinks.
  • Schedule visits to their dental professional at least once every six months.

By getting your children started on the right foot when it comes to their oral care routine, you’ll be setting them up for a lifetime of success maintaining their smile (and save yourself money as well). You’ve made a great choice to read up on fillings for childhood cavities and what to do about them. Be sure to utilize your dental professional for their expert treatment, even when it comes to children!

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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