July 26, 2019 Tri Le Many adults have had fillings, where a dentist fills in a decayed tooth with dental material to prevent further damage. The same type of treatment can be administered to children, too. The goal is to preserve the tooth’s health and function for years to come, even with baby teeth. It can also help to reduce pain if nerves are exposed. There are several reasons why a child may require a filling. The most common is a result of cavities, but other forms of tooth decay can trigger dental bone loss and deterioration. Fillings can help if the child’s tooth has a crack or chip. It can also be helpful if the teeth are not shaped correctly or are underdeveloped. Early childhood cavities is the number 1 chronic disease affecting young children. More than 40% of children have tooth decay by the time they reach kindergarten. #WellnessWed pic.twitter.com/yhD6sYNjoA — HHS OASH Region II (@HHS_HealthReg2) February 27, 2019 But Baby Teeth Fall Out Anyway… Many parents wonder why their child needs dental fillings if the baby teeth will just fall out anyway. It may not be necessary in every situation. However, your dental care provider may recommend fillings for several key reasons, even if these are your child’s primary teeth. For example, baby teeth are designed to last for numerous years. Some baby teeth can remain in place until your child is 12 or 13 years old. During that time, if a cavity is present and untreated, the bacteria can grow at a very fast rate, invading nearby tissue, causing gum disease, and leading to dental bone loss. Over time, this can cause even more damage to the mouth. It can allow infections to spread throughout the child’s mouth and even into the bloodstream. It also can be very painful. Fillings help to resolve this problem for good. Why fill your child’s baby teeth? Here are a few additional reasons to consider: Some children develop a misalignment of the jaw structure. Others develop an overbite. This occurs because the baby teeth are damaged or unhealthy. Baby teeth are essential for your child’s speech development. If the child’s tooth has a cavity, just removing the tooth or allowing the tooth to fall out early due to decay, limits their ability to speak properly. When bacteria, plaque, and infection develop in the tooth from a cavity it causes changes in the structure of the jaw and the location of the tooth. This makes it hard for your child’s permanent teeth to come in straight. Children with active cavities may find it hard to chew and eat properly. They may develop habits that last for years. Cavities and ongoing infection can be painful. Fillings help to prevent this. Ensuring your child keeps his or her baby teeth, or milk teeth, as long as possible is essential. This helps to ensure the adult teeth develop as designed. If the existing primary tooth is damaged from decay, this makes it hard for that tooth to remain in place long term. It falls out early, long before the new tooth can grow in. This causes the new tooth to come in at the wrong angle or position. And, that can lead to further problems in the future, including the need for more advanced orthodontic treatment. Because baby teeth influence the development of permanent teeth, many of the treatments available to adults, such as fillings and braces, are also used on children. They may be two sets of teeth, but they work within the same oral structure. Do All Cavities Require Filling? Some baby teeth may not require fillings if the cavities are small. They can, in some cases, repair themselves over time using a process called remineralization. This is most likely the case if the dentist catches the cavity early and treats it. It’s always important to practice good dental hygiene at home, too, to avoid small cavities from becoming larger problems. Also, there are cases in which the baby tooth may likely be falling out soon. If the new tooth is ready to emerge, it may not be necessary to fill the baby tooth’s cavity. In rare cases, treatment may have to transcend fillings. For example, some children may require the use of crowns. These can be necessary in situations where the cavity or damage is significant and filling the tooth may not be enough. A crown works as a protective covering on the tooth, limiting the further development of the cavity and reducing the risk of tooth decay occurring. There are also situations where baby root canals and extractions may be necessary. If the damage is severe and there is nerve pain, it may be necessary to treat the infection in a more immediate manner. Removing the tooth may be required to protect the gums and bone. Root canals are an option if a child is young, and likely to need the baby tooth for many years to come. They tend to be fast and less painful than an adult’s treatment. The Procedure – How Are Fillings Added? When your child gets routine dental care even at a young age, the dentist is able to catch cavities and other damage very early on. That’s a good thing because it means procedures like fillings are less likely to be necessary. If your child has a cavity and a filling is determined to be the right option, we’ll schedule the treatment plan for the child to fix the problem. The procedure itself takes around 1 hour. In many cases, we can use nitrous oxide or sedation methods to help relax the child through the procedure. In rare cases, general anesthesia may be necessary especially if there is significant pain due to root exposure. Once the child is comfortable, we will remove the decayed portion of the tooth. This involves removing as much of the bacteria and infection as possible. We properly clean the area to ensure that bacteria is minimized. At this time, we can then place the filling. The filling is used to fill in the hole created by the cleaning and decayed tooth removal. We use fillings to help restore the shape of the tooth and to ensure the tooth remains strong. When Multiple Cavities Need Filling In some cases, a child might have several cavities. We can treat multiple cavities at one time especially if the child can sit for that long without trouble. In other cases, it may be best to make multiple appointments. We always put your child’s health and needs first. Preventing Dental Cavities in Kids The key to avoiding fillings is to prevent cavities. There are several things parents can do to achieve this goal. These include: Reducing the amount of sugar consumed. Sugar feeds the bacteria that causes cavities to occur. By limiting fruit juice and other sugar-based drinks, it is possible to cut down on a lot of this risk. Ensure proper oral health. To do this, be sure your child, even your toddler, is brushing his or her teeth properly and at least twice a day. Ensure they are brushing for at least two minutes. Routine dental checkups are important. As noted, we can spot a cavity when it is very small, nipping it in the bud early and potentially avoiding more complex problems. If you think your child has a cavity, come in for an appointment. We offer a full range of pediatric services. The sooner treatment is given, the less invasive it may be. Tri LeA practicing dentist since 1987, Dr. Le has been running successful dental practices in Texas with his wife Ann since 1990. A member of the ADA, AACD and AADSM, Dr. Le has also contributed to several leading dental journals.