A child’s primary (or baby) teeth are an important factor in many parts of overall development of the face and oral structures. These baby teeth provide the pathways for proper eruption of the permanent teeth and preserve space for detrimental overcrowding in some areas. Not to mention, they also are foundational for healthy chewing habits and speech development.
Establishing a dental home with a trusted pediatric dentist at an early age helps prevent costly and painful dental problems. Sometimes, despite our best efforts a child needs dental treatment for a cavity. As a pediatric dentist Dr. Kennedy’s goal is to provide options for possible treatment alternatives from a conservative standpoint. Sometimes parents ask the great question of why the teeth should be restored if they are ‘just baby teeth’. There are many reasons why repairing a tooth is preferable to letting an active decay remain in your child’s mouth.
q: But isn’t that tooth just going to fall out?
That tooth might have longer to function than you realize! Typically a child will get their first tooth between the ages of 4-7 months old, and baby teeth continue to erupt until approximately 2 years old. Teeth start falling out around 6 years old, but baby molars don’t fall out until closer to 11 years old. If a cavity is found in a young child, it could be 5+ years before that tooth is due to fall out! This can be a long time!
q: But the tooth is not hurting?
When we can find a cavity early – before pain – it is often smaller, easier, and less costly to restore. Dental pain is inherently bacteria inside a tooth affecting the inner nerve of a tooth. For the bacteria to reach the nerve inside a tooth, it means that decay must progress to a very large size before pain will be caused. Due to the larger sizes of decay in teeth that require pain, our only options to fix the tooth are more costly restorative techniques and nerve treatments or extraction of the tooth.
In summary, typically the most affordable, least invasive way to treat dental cavities is at the time when they are first detected.
q: Can’t you just take it out?
While it might seem like the easy answer, extracting a tooth earlier than it is meant to fall out can lead to other problems. Whenever possible it is better to have a natural tooth holding it’s space for the adult tooth to come in properly. Without a baby tooth in place, the shifting and movement of the nearby teeth can create more issues that require costly intervention.
Ultimately regular brushing and flossing as well as a healthy diet go a long way to keep teeth healthy. When a tooth does develop a small area of decay, it typically most minimally invasive to treat at that stage. Treatment is often quicker and less costly when we catch a cavity in its early stage. Keeping up to date with dental visits will help your kids have healthy smiles and set them up for dental health as young adults and beyond. At Spring Creek Pediatric Dentistry we believe in a conservative approach to dental care that helps build trust and confidence in the dental environment.