Fillings in Baby Teeth: Are They Really Necessary?
Parents ask dentists this question a lot: if primary teeth are temporary, is it really necessary to prevent and treat cavities in baby teeth?
The answer is yes. Fillings for your child's primary teeth (baby teeth) are just as important as they are for adult teeth. In fact, leaving cavities untreated can actually lead to other problems down the road.
The Functions of Baby Teeth
Baby teeth are not just for chewing; they play an essential role in a child's development. Although they are only around for a few years, they can aid and affect vital functions like speech, self-confidence, and digestion. That's why it's important to consult a childrens dentist for teeth fillings every six months.
They Aid Speaking and Eating
Speaking and eating are two vital functions in a child's development.
Your child's front teeth help him develop speech – children learn to communicate effectively by making sounds and pronouncing letters. Most consonant sounds in the alphabet are formed by pressing the tongue against the front teeth.
In addition to speaking, baby teeth allow children to chew solid food properly, which aids digestion.
They Affect Self-Confidence
Healthy baby teeth promote self-confidence in the crucial early phase of a child's development. A child with decaying teeth and poor oral hygiene is more likely to be ostracized by his peers in kindergarten and primary school.
Why You Should Treat Cavities in Baby Teeth
Aside from the essential functions baby teeth serve, there are many other reasons why you should take cavities in your child's baby teeth seriously.
Baby Teeth Act as Placeholders
Your child's baby teeth act as placeholders by saving room for adult teeth. Without baby teeth, misalignment or overcrowding of the adult teeth can occur, leading to problems with chewing and biting.
Cavities Can Cause Pain and Discomfort
Leaving your child's cavities untreated can lead to infections, abscesses, and other dental problems. If you've ever had a toothache, you'll know that inflammation of the gums and surrounding tissue can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. This kind of discomfort can distract a child from their studies, even resulting in lower grades.
Cavities Can Be a Sign of an Underlying Condition
In some cases, cavities may indicate underlying concerns such as a poor diet or incorrect dental care. Your dentist will be able to spot these signs early on and will recommend corrective action.
Poor Oral Care in Childhood Leads to Poor Oral Care in Adulthood
A poor oral care routine in childhood usually translates into poor oral care in adulthood. This is because children form oral care routines and habits early on.
When Does Your Child Need a Filling?
To determine whether a baby tooth needs a filling or not, a dentist will look at three main factors: if the tooth will fall out on its own, the size of the cavity, and the child's cavity risk.
Will the Tooth Fall Out on its Own?
Dentists can determine when a tooth will fall out by taking an x-ray and looking at how much of the baby tooth's root is still there. The adult tooth prepares to take its place by dissolving the baby tooth's root over time.
If the tooth is already loose and is likely to fall out on its own within 6-12 months, pediatric dentists generally let nature take its course. They usually recommend improved oral care (brushing and flossing) and regular check-ups.
How Large is the Cavity?
Cavities that can be seen on x-rays have already progressed to the dentin (the tooth's inner layer). Dentin is softer and more porous than tooth enamel, so once a cavity reaches it, it can grow rapidly. This is when a white filling is recommended.
If the cavity is large and there is more than one on the tooth, dentists recommend restoring it with a crown. If the cavity is too big to hold a filling or crown, extraction is recommended.
If the tooth has a pre-cavity spot, it means that the tooth has an area of demineralization that hasn't progressed to a cavity yet. A dentist will monitor the tooth and recommend increased oral hygiene.
How High is the Child's Cavity Risk?
Because cavities are caused by bacterial infections (called 'caries'), they can spread from tooth to tooth. If a cavity is left untreated for long enough, your child's other teeth may also develop cavities. A dentist will assess if your child needs a filling by determining the risk to your child's other baby teeth.