Some parents assume it’s not necessary to treat cavities affecting their child’s baby (primary) teeth. While your child’s second set of pearly whites will replace their baby teeth, treating tooth decay promotes healthier adult teeth. A variety of treatment options are available from your child’s pediatric dentist to fix and prevent cavities.
What are Cavities?
Cavities, also known as caries, refer to the presence of tiny holes or openings in the surface of the teeth. Bacterial activity from food particles and sugars in the mouth causes tartar buildup (hardened plaque) on the teeth. In the absence of daily gum cleaning or brushing and flossing, bacteria will penetrate and damage the tooth enamel, leading to cavities. The risk of cavities in primary teeth increases because of thinner tooth enamel and lack of proper oral care from the time your child is a baby.
Common Signs of Cavities
- Toothache (tooth pain) or discomfort
- Visible holes or gaps in the tooth’s surface
- Jaw or facial pain
- Tooth sensitivity to cold or hot foods
- Pain when eating
- Loss of interest in food
- Lethargy, fussiness, or mood swings
How Do Untreated Cavities Affect Kids?
Any child can develop cavities even with daily oral care. Try not to panic. The important thing is bringing your child to a pediatric dentist for early cavity treatment and prevention care. Untreated tooth decay can result in these avoidable consequences:
- Increased risk of decay in adult teeth
- Missed school days and low academic performance due to toothaches
- More expensive or complicated treatments, e.g, root canals or braces
- Future dental anxiety or fear of the dentist (dentophobia)
- Tooth pulp infection (abscess) or gum disease
- Loose or chipped tooth or tooth loss
- Bullying from peers
Treatments for Fixing Cavities in Children
Cavities can be prevented with age-appropriate dental hygiene, avoiding sugary foods and drinks, drinking fluoridated water, and regular dental check-ups. If decay does occur, your pediatric dentist may recommend any of the treatment options below based on the severity of the decay.
- Fillings: A durable, tooth-colored material called composite filling is used to fill the openings in your child’s baby or permanent teeth. Pulp capping or pulpotomy may be done before placing the filling. Dental fillings reduce further decay and prevent gum disease as well as the need for a root canal.
- Pulpotomy: Designed for treating cavities affecting baby teeth, a pulpotomy is where a dentist removes the infected nerve or tissue inside the crown to prevent further decay.
- Root canal: The procedure is typically performed in cases of severe decay and extensive damage to the permanent tooth. The tooth pulp is cleaned and disinfected before applying a filling.
- Crowns: Stainless steel or tooth-colored crowns are used to restore the chewing surfaces of severely decayed back teeth. The new dental crown is mounted after a root canal and protects against new infection or fracture. Crown replacement improves tooth function such as biting, chewing and speaking.
- Extraction: Usually necessary for severely decayed teeth that can’t be saved. Early removal of baby teeth can affect chewing or cause orthodontic issues later on.
Helping to Protect Your Child’s Smile
We’ll recommend the appropriate treatment after conducting a detailed oral exam on your child. Our board-certified pediatric dentist will treat your child in a hygienic and child-friendly environment. We also provide preventative treatments, including fluoride varnishes and sealants to protect against new decay.
If you think your child may have a cavity, contact us today to schedule an appointment for an evaluation.