Why Fill Cavities in Baby Teeth?

Cavities are actually holes that develop when acids within the oral cavity erode the tooth minerals.  Most oral acids that cause decay come from bacteria, such as Streptococcus mutans.  The oral bacteria release acid into the mouth as they consume simple carbohydrates,  such as the sugar in candy. The acid is actually a byproduct of the bacteria’s digestion.

 Cavities can form in any tooth,  including a baby tooth. We are commonly asked, “Why do you fill cavities in baby teeth?” Because baby teeth are important!!! Here are a few reasons why:

Baby teeth act as placeholders for adult teeth.

Baby teeth, which are also called primary teeth, maintain space within the dental arch and guide the eruption of the permanent teeth. If a baby tooth is lost early, due to decay or infection, this could lead to orthodontic or crowding issues for the adult tooth. Children begin to lose their front teeth around age 6 but will not lose their back teeth (molars) until closer to age 12 or beyond. We need to keep these baby teeth in place!

An untreated cavity can be painful.

Cavities in baby teeth, if left untreated, can grow and lead to pain and/or infections. Initially, the decay may only affect the outermost layer of the child’s tooth, which is called the enamel. However, as the cavity deepens, it can access the dentin and even the innermost layer of the tooth, which is called the pulp. Since the pulp houses the blood supply and nerves of the tooth, your child can experience a great deal of discomfort when a cavity reaches this level.

 By having the cavity filled before it worsens, you can protect your child from unnecessary pain and discomfort.

An untreated cavity can become infected.

As the cavity penetrates the deepest layers of the tooth, a dental infection can ensue. If the bacteria has invaded the nerve tissue, a nerve treatment may be needed to save the tooth.

 A pulpotomy, also referred to as a baby root canal, involves the removal of the dental pulp from the tooth. Once all the infected tissue is gone, the inside of the tooth is disinfected and cleaned. Unlike an adult root canal, during a pulpotomy, no material is removed from the roots of the tooth. Instead, the pulp is only eliminated from the crown or portion of the tooth that lies above the gum line.

 If the cavity is filled before it becomes painful, the tooth will be protected from further entry of oral bacteria, lessening the chance of a dental infection.

What are some of the signs that your child has developed cavity?

Your child may complain of tooth pain when an untreated cavity is present. There may also be visible discoloration on a tooth. In addition, x-rays of your child’s mouth may indicate a cavity is present. To reveal a cavity at its earliest stages, it is important to have your child’s teeth regularly assessed by a dentist.