Cavities are a common form of tooth decay in children as well as adults. Children are especially prone to developing cavities in their teeth because they are still learning oral hygiene skills. Lack of adequate brushing and flossing can allow plaque to build up on the teeth and lead to decay.
When a child gets a cavity in a primary (baby) tooth, is it worth having it filled? Many parents ask this question because baby teeth eventually fall out, making a filling seem like a waste. Here’s what you need to know about cavity fillings in baby teeth.
What is a Cavity?
A cavity is a hole in a tooth. It is caused by plaque bacteria that eat away at the enamel of a tooth, causing a hole or pit to form. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of food remnants and bacteria. When it remains on the teeth without being brushed away or removed by a dentist during routine cleanings, it can lead to tooth decay in the form of cavities.
What is a Filling?
A filling is the process of treating a cavity. The procedure involves removing the damaged enamel and filling the hole in the tooth with composite material. The filling material is made to match the existing color of the tooth so that it provides a natural-looking restoration. A filling is a simple procedure that takes an average of 30 minutes or less to complete.
What is the Purpose of Primary (Baby) Teeth?
The primary teeth serve 3 main purposes:
- Chewing. Baby teeth allow infants, toddlers, and young children to learn to chew a variety of foods in order to get the necessary nutrients they need to grow and develop.
- Speech development. Baby teeth also serve an important role in speech development as infants and toddlers learn to talk and as vocabulary and verbal communication expands with age.
- Holding places for the permanent teeth. The baby teeth also serve as placeholders for the permanent teeth. In the natural shedding process, when a permanent tooth is ready to come in, it will gradually push the baby tooth out of place as it erupts.
Why Not Pull the Tooth?
If a baby tooth is pulled before it is ready to be naturally shed, there could be negative consequences. A missing baby tooth leaves a gap in the mouth that could be there for many years until the permanent tooth is ready to come in. The other teeth may shift out of place and prevent the permanent tooth from having enough room to come in when it is ready. This can cause a variety of dental and orthodontic problems.
The gap left from a tooth that is pulled too early can also affect speech, causing a potential speech impediment that could require speech therapy to correct later on. It may also cause eating problems if the child has to avoid chewing in the area of the missing tooth.
What if My Child is Afraid of Getting a Filling?
One of the most common reasons parents avoid fillings is that the child is afraid. In this case we offer sedation options to help the child relax and feel more comfortable getting a filling. Nitrous oxide is the most common form of sedation used for fillings. The child breathes through a mask over their nose and the nitrous oxide provides a calming sensation. Local anesthesia is used to numb the tooth receiving the filling. After the procedure the nitrous oxide wears off in just a few minutes. The procedure is even less invasive than pulling the tooth.
Will it Cost Less to Pull the Tooth?
Another common reason parents avoid fillings is because they want to save money. However, the cost of filling a cavity in a baby tooth is comparable to the cost of extraction. There is no clear advantage to having the tooth pulled instead of filled.
Dental Associates For Kids Only Recommends Fillings
We always recommend filling a cavity in a baby tooth over pulling the tooth or doing nothing. Leaving a cavity untreated can cause the tooth to develop a painful infection as the cavity worsens. Decay in one tooth can also spread to adjacent teeth. A quick and simple filling can prevent a variety of problems.
Call 516-625-3806 or contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.