Fillings in Baby Teeth: Are They Really Necessary?

Young Girl Smiling After a Cavity Filling

As a parent, you want the best for your children. That's why it might be distressing to learn a child has a cavity in one of their teeth. But if you know the tooth will eventually fall out, is it really necessary to put fillings in baby teeth?

Untreated cavities — even in primary teeth — can result in negative consequences for both parents and children. The good news is that cavities in baby teeth can be treated just like permanent teeth, and your pediatric dentist can help you set your child up for a lifetime of good oral health.

Facts About Childhood Cavities

Many parents figure that, because baby teeth fall out, it isn't too problematic if they develop cavities — but that couldn't be further from the truth. Consider these facts:

  • According to the World Health Organization, cavities affect 60% to 90% of school-age children.
  • Although preventable, early childhood tooth decay is one of the most common diseases affecting children worldwide, according to a study in Frontiers in Pediatrics.
  • A paper published in Caries Research reports that early childhood cavities predict a lower oral-health-related quality of life as the child gets older.
  • The Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC states that poor oral health in children can lead to lower grades and missed school.

These facts are alarming, but cavities are preventable if you stay on top of your child's oral health. Be sure to visit the dentist as soon as their first tooth erupts and follow your dentist's directions on oral hygiene. If your child does develop a cavity, rest assured your pediatric dentist can treat it promptly.

Pediatric Dental Filling Process

If your child has a cavity in a baby tooth, it means bad oral bacteria are eating away at the tooth structure and causing decay. To stop the decay process, a dentist will use a small drill to remove the infected area and seal the hole with filling material.There are several types of fillings a dentist can use, depending on the extent of the decay. Your dentist will let you know their recommendation regarding which material is best for your child's situation. Once applied, the filling will help rebuild your child's tooth structure so it can function normally and help prevent further decay.

Interestingly, a review in Lasers in Dental Science reports that dental lasers are effective tools for helping dentists detect decay in both primary and permanent teeth. Using lasers for pediatric cavity treatment in place of traditional drills may eliminate the need for anesthetics and speed up healing time, according to a study in the European Journal of Paediatric Dentistry. This is great news for children who don't like needles.

Consequences of Not Filling Baby Teeth

If left untreated, dental decay can worsen and lead to more serious oral health issues. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, some of the problems caused by childhood cavities include:

  • Mouth pain
  • Advanced dental infections
  • Missed school
  • Poor grades
  • Poor sleep
  • Tooth loss
  • Gum disease
  • Damage to permanent teeth
  • Disrupted speech development
  • Low self-esteem

No one wants to see their children in pain. Help your child stay healthy by teaching them good oral hygiene practices. You can also take steps at home to prevent early childhood cavities. The American Dental Association recommends limiting sugary drinks for your child and transitioning them to a cup by their first birthday to prevent tooth decay caused by bottle use.

Paying attention to the health of your child's baby teeth is essential. If they do get a cavity, make sure to get it treated as soon as possible — and if you have questions or concerns about fillings in baby teeth, ask your pediatric dentist. Childhood should be full of friends and fun. Taking care of your child's baby teeth will allow your child to get back to being a kid!

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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