As a parent, you will undoubtedly be committed to doing everything that you can to help preserve your child’s natural teeth for as long as possible, whether they are their first, ‘baby’ teeth or the subsequent set that begin to erupt around the age of six and that must last her the remainder of her lifetime.
Nevertheless, despite our best efforts, cavities in children are not uncommon. There are many contributors to cavities in baby teeth. These range from extended reliance on bottles as babies, to having too many sugary foods and drinks, to not being thorough enough when brushing their teeth. However, leaving them untreated can have painful and unpleasant consequences for your child. Just because they are baby teeth and they will eventually fall out does not make them any less important. Children with cavities on their baby teeth will face oral health challenges both now and in the future.
Here is what you need to know about preventing cavities on baby teeth and what treatment is available in the event that they do occur.
Common symptoms of cavities in baby teeth include”
Pain in the teeth when your child is eating or brushing their teeth
Brushing is the single biggest defense against cavities regardless of our age, as it removes food debris from our teeth before it can interact with the naturally-occurring bacteria in our mouths and cause plaque to develop. When plaque forms, the acids produced by the bacteria can erode the enamel on the teeth, causing areas of decay known as cavities. As such, the best way to prevent cavities from forming on your child’s baby teeth is to ensure that they brush them regularly – at least twice a day for two minutes, using a fluoride toothpaste placed on a small-headed toothbrush. Obviously the younger your child is, the harder this may be for them and you may have to do all or part of the brushing on their behalf. Many parents find that their children don’t brush for long enough if they are left unsupervised or are too young to estimate how long they have been cleaning their teeth for. For this reason, many invest in egg-timers or using stop-watch apps on their smart devices so that their child knows how long to brush for.
Your dentist may recommend a treatment to you called dental sealants. These are special plastic covers that sit over the top of the permanent back teeth to help protect them from decay. This is important because the back teeth, known as the pre-molars and molars, have large flat chewing surfaces that are covered in grooves and indentations. These tiny gaps can be hard to clean with a toothbrush, making them idea to trap bacteria and food debris and cause decay. By placing dental sealants over the back teeth, you can add a further layer of protection and prevent these baby teeth from becoming decayed.
Although your pediatric dentist will do everything in their power to help you keep your child’s teeth free from decay, the truth is that many children still develop at least one cavity in a baby tooth during their lifetime. If your child has a cavity in a baby tooth that isn’t causing them any pain, and/or that tooth is wobbly and will come out fairly shortly, then your dentist may choose to keep a close eye on the tooth through regular visits, but actually leave it in place until it falls out of its own accord.
However, if your dentist is concerned that the decay may be spreading, or if the cavity is causing your child pain or other debilitating symptoms, it may be necessary to treat it. This could involve several different options. The most common treatment for cavities in baby teeth is a cavity filling. Just like adult teeth, this means drilling out the areas of decay and filling the hole left with an artificial material, which in children is often a tooth-colored composite. If the cavity is particularly large, it may be necessary for your dentist to give your child a dental crown which sits over the affected tooth and restores the shape, size, and strength to it. Finally, if your dentist feels that the tooth is beyond saving, it may be extracted. Your dentist will talk you through this process. Fortunately, removing baby teeth is far faster and simpler than removing an adult tooth.
If you would like more information on cavities in baby teeth, how to prevent them and how they will be treated if your child develops decay in a first tooth, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced pediatric dentistry team. Fort Worth Children's Dentistry is a preferred dental provider in the Fort Worth area, and can help you get the treatments you are looking for.