Since baby teeth will eventually fall out, many parents wonder if it’s worth treating cavities in baby teeth. Since they’re temporary, some parents assume that the cavities will be temporary too. This is somewhat true, but it’s still worth it to treat cavities in baby teeth. There are a few important reasons why.
Is It Worth Treating Cavities in Baby Teeth?
In short, yes, it’s worth treating cavities in baby teeth. This will help your child’s teeth develop normally as they get older, and help to prevent tooth decay and bacteria from harming your child’s other teeth, gums, or other structures in their mouth. Let’s take a closer look at each of these issues.
Can Babies Get Cavities?
Yes, even babies can get cavities and tooth decay. When tooth decay affects very small children, it can be called baby bottle tooth decay or early childhood caries. This occurs when bacteria feed on the sugars in milk. These bacteria multiply and produce acids, which can create small holes (AKA cavities or dental caries) in early teeth.
Baby bottle tooth decay can occur if a child frequently goes to bed with a baby bottle and the bacteria and acids sit on their teeth and gums, or if parents use sugar or honey to get the child to suck on a pacifier or bottle. To prevent this, parents can gently wipe the child’s mouth with gauze or a washcloth after they eat. Once the child gets their first tooth, parents should start helping them brush their teeth using a bit of toothpaste, about the size of a grain of rice.
Why Should You Treat Cavities in Baby Teeth?
Since baby teeth will fall out on their own, some parents may wonder why they should treat cavities in baby teeth. Why not let the tooth fall out on its own, or, if the decay is severe, get the tooth pulled? The following are a few reasons why it’s worth treating cavities in baby teeth and getting them filled.
Cavities Can Be Painful
When cavities are first forming, they can be difficult to detect. However, as bacteria make their way deeper into a tooth’s structures, including baby teeth, they will eat away at the structures deeper within the tooth. This includes the nerves inside the tooth pulp, the soft substance inside the tooth, under the tough enamel. When a cavity becomes more severe, it will become painful. Treating the cavity and filling the hole left by the bacteria will stop the pain and prevent the bacteria from further harming the tooth.
Untreated Tooth Decay Can Create Infection
When bacteria enter an open wound and multiply, it can create infection. An infection can seriously endanger a person’s health if it’s not treated. The bacteria that cause tooth decay can also cause infection, and create an open space for other bacteria to enter. A tooth infection is a serious condition that can spread to other parts of the mouth and face, and even the brain.
If you notice swelling, redness, or discoloration around your child’s teeth, gums, or cheeks, bacteria may be the cause and a tooth infection may be occurring. This condition is especially painful. Getting a cavity treated and filled early can prevent infection. The dentist will remove the affected tissue, clean the area to stop the bacteria, and fill the space, so bacteria don’t reenter the tooth.
Pulling Teeth Early Can Cause Tooth Misalignment
Why not get a baby tooth pulled instead of getting it filled? In some cases, pulling a baby tooth with a cavity can be a viable option. However, this should only be done if the permanent tooth is very close to appearing.
A child’s baby teeth not only help them chew solid foods and speak more clearly, but the teeth also play an important role in the child’s jawbone development. If the teeth are missing for too long, the pressure on the jaw won’t be distributed properly, and the jawbone might not develop properly either. This can cause problems later on when the permanent teeth start to appear. So, it is better to treat a cavity in a baby tooth and let it fall out when it’s ready, rather than pull it too early.
Untreated Cavities Risks Bad Habits
Children learn their brushing, flossing, and eating habits primarily from their parents. They also learn whether the dentist is scary or safe, and whether cavities and tooth decay are real concerns or not. Putting off a dental visit or a filling may give your child the message that the dentist and dental health is not important. Or, the child may think the dentist is scary and threatening. By treating cavities when they appear, you are showing your child that dental health is important, and the dentist is not a scary place. This will help your child immensely as they get older.
Even though baby teeth will fall out on their own, there are many reasons why it is worth treating cavities in baby teeth. If your child is ready for their first dental visit, or you think they may have a cavity, make an appointment with a dentist near you today.