According to research, around 42 percent of children will have at least one cavity from the ages of 2 to 11. Over half of children between 6 and 11 will have them! As a parent, it’s important to know what cavities in baby teeth mean for you and your child.
Read on to learn more about cavities in baby teeth, including treatment options and likely causes behind them!
Why Primary Teeth Are Vulnerable to Cavities
The moment teeth erupt, they’re vulnerable to decay. But for many parents, it may seem like their children develop cavities suddenly or frequently compared to their older children or themselves. This isn’t that surprising! From infants to grade schoolers, children are particularly prone to cavities due to a few reasons:
Inconsistent Dental Care
Teaching good brushing habits to children can be a challenge. To fight back against bacterial growth, it’s important for children to brush just as much as adults: twice a day for about two minutes. However, as they age and become more independent, dental care is easy for children to forget! Bacteria in their mouth can grow quickly, so missing just one or two days of brushing can start them on a path towards cavities.
Additionally, baby teeth need to be flossed just like permanent teeth. Thorough flossing isn’t always easy – either for parents flossing their children’s teeth, or for children to floss their own teeth. Cavities that form between teeth can grow significantly before your child experiences any discomfort.
Sugary foods are a catalyst for bacteria growth. Unfortunately, many foods aimed at children, like juices or breakfast cereals are full of sugar. The bacteria in their mouth will feed off this sugar and produce acidic waste at an alarming rate.
In addition to good dental care habits, parents should pay close attention to the amount of sugar in foods for their child. It’s often surprising for parents who start to look at nutritional labels when they realize just how many foods have sugars in them!
Saliva Transfer to Infants
For infants and toddlers, another risk for cavities in baby teeth is saliva transfer from the parent. Things like cleaning a pacifier with your mouth or feeding a baby with a spoon that was in your mouth can transfer saliva and bacteria too.
Even adults with perfect brushing routines and a cavity-free record will have bacteria in their mouth. Be careful when doing anything that might introduce additional bacteria to your new child’s mouth!
Do You Have to Treat Cavities in Baby Teeth?
When your dentist identifies a cavity in your child’s baby teeth, you may be wondering if it’s necessary to treat it. For most cases, the answer will be yes. While baby teeth are temporary, they play several roles for your child, and each are critically important to their development:
Speech – Many sounds we form for speech require interaction with our teeth. If a baby loses a tooth due to decay or other issues, it will likely impact their ability to develop proper pronunciation for certain letters or sounds.
Facial Development – The teeth in your child’s mouth are a foundation for their facial development. Muscle and bone structure can be affected by missing or misaligned teeth!
Permanent Tooth Alignment – Baby teeth function as a “placeholder” for permanent teeth. As their permanent teeth begin to erupt, they’ll take the place of the existing baby teeth. If your child loses a tooth from tooth decay, the remaining teeth will shift. This can lead to problems that require orthodontic treatment to correct!
Healthy Eating – Of course, teeth are a necessary part of healthy eating. Many of the foods we need for nutrition, like vegetables, can be crunchy and require teeth to eat. If a child has cavities, they may suffer from toothaches that discourage them from eating solid foods. Poor nutrition during their critical development stages can have lifelong ramifications!
Treatment Options for Cavities in Primary Teeth
There are three general approaches to cavities in baby teeth, each depending on the severity of the cavity and several factors surrounding the child’s age and health:
For most cases where a cavity needs treated in baby teeth, a filling is the preferred solution. Fillings involve the dentist cleaning out the cavity and then filling it back in with a composite solution. These fillings will help prevent additional decay and reduce the chances of bacteria hiding in hard-to-reach places.
Dental fillings are a fairly simple procedure that can be done in a single office visit. For some children who have several cavities, the dentist may recommend filling multiple cavities in one visit, or spread them out. How you handle this is up to you, so it’s good to discuss it with your dentist to get the best recommendation for your child’s case!
Fillings will typically last long enough for a treated baby tooth to last until it will fall out on its own. In some cases, cavities form in baby teeth that aren’t expected to fall out for a few years still. Your dentist may recommend a crown instead of a filling, for a few reasons.
Crowns tend to be more effective for long-term care. Fillings can last for years without problems, but sometimes they fail. On the other hand, crowns are much more durable. When used to treat cavities in baby teeth, it’s easy to count on a crown lasting until their tooth falls out a few years down the road.
Dental crowns aren’t recommended in most cases, but sometimes they can be the best option for your child’s cavity issues. While they may cost more in the short-term, they can prevent future visits if a filling fails before the tooth falls out naturally!
Improving Dental Care
If your dentist catches a cavity in its very early stages, no direct treatment may be necessary. In these cases, your dentist will recommend adjustments to your child’s dental care. Sometimes this will be encouraging them to brush and floss more consistently. In other cases, your child may be given a fluoride rinse or recommended to increase their fluoride with fluoridated toothpaste if they’re not already using it!
These exceptions typically only happen when a cavity is just beginning. For parents, the best way to avoid severe cavities like this is to make sure your child is staying up to date on their dental checkups! Dentists will be able to spot the signs of a forming cavity before your child may develop any symptoms of tooth decay!
Do You Have Dental Health Questions? Schedule an Appointment!
If you have dental health concerns or just looking for information, the professionals at Walbridge Dental provide complete family dental care to families in the Millbury community. Contact us online to set up an appointment now or call us at 419-836-1033.
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