If you’re a parent with a child who has a cavity, the first few questions that come to mind might be:
- Do children’s cavities need to be filled?
- How do they fill a child’s cavity?
- What happens when a child gets a filling?
There’s often unknown surrounding cavities in children since they’re not permanent and will eventually fall out. We want to assure you that it’s normal for children to get cavities, and the procedure for filling a child’s cavity is usually quick and easy.
In this article, we’re sharing why it’s important to get your three or 5-year-old a cavity filling. You’ll also get an answer to the question, “How do dentists fill cavities in toddlers?”
Let’s jump into our discussion about children’s cavities.
How Do Kids Get Cavities?
Natural bacteria in the mouth can get stuck on teeth and start forming plaque. If not treated with proper oral hygiene, these bacteria and plaque will eventually lead to cavities and tooth decay. This process occurs in everyone’s mouth, regardless of age.
Initially, babies don’t have any teeth, and there’s nothing for bacteria and plaque to grow on. However, once teeth start forming, baby teeth are susceptible to cavities in the same way as adult teeth.
At one year of age (or whenever baby teeth start forming), it’s essential to:
- Gently brush and floss your baby’s teeth
- Take your child to the dentist regularly
- Monitor their diet and limit sugary foods and drinks
These are the few things you can control as a parent. The items you can’t control that can also lead to cavities are:
- Genetic disposition to cavities
- Crooked baby teeth that make cleaning more difficult
The bottom line is that baby teeth aren’t immune to cavities. Be proactive and start practicing good oral hygiene with your child early and consider sealants as a protective measure.
Sealants are a third option for baby teeth cavities. They don’t fix cavities but rather help protect teeth (mainly molars) from cavities.
The sealant process is quick and painless:
- The tooth is cleaned
- A special gel is placed on the tooth’s chewing surface
- The sealant is applied to the chewing surface
- The sealant is dried to the tooth surface
Since molars are difficult to reach and have deep grooves, sealants are often only placed on a child’s molars.
While sealants are a great step to help prevent decay on baby teeth, they still are susceptible to cavities. We’ll take some time to talk about cavities in baby teeth so you’ll know what to expect and what to do if your child develops one.
Do Children’s Cavities Need to Be Filled?
It may seem logical to think, “A child’s baby teeth are going to fall out eventually, so there’s no need to fill a toddler’s cavities.” Or, “Can’t you just pull baby teeth since they’ll come out anyway?”
Each situation will be different, but most dentists agree that it’s often best to fix or fill kids’ cavities when possible. Whether it’s a 3-year-old cavity filling, a 5-year-old cavity filling, or older, dentists will try to preserve baby teeth.
Even though baby teeth will eventually fall out, they’re essential for a child’s growth and development.
Why Are Baby Teeth Important?
Baby teeth play two major roles in a child’s early life stages:
- Help kids chew and eat solid foods
- Provide placement and guidance for adult teeth
Let’s look at these roles in more detail.
First, baby teeth provide growing toddlers with the ability to chew and eat solid foods. Milk is necessary for babies when they’re born and then through the first few months. Eventually, children will need to eat solid foods to receive more nutrients as they grow and develop. Baby teeth make it possible for toddlers to chew and eat solid foods and receive these new nutrients.
Placement and Guidance
Second, baby teeth act as placeholders for adult teeth and help guide permanent teeth into place when they start coming in (erupting). Without baby teeth reserving space for adult teeth, adult teeth can grow sideways or very crooked in a child’s mouth. Baby teeth help create space in a child’s mouth to keep the mouth from overcrowding as adult teeth erupt.
Now that you know the role baby teeth play and why it’s important to preserve them, let’s talk about what dentists do when a toddler gets a cavity.
How Do Dentists Fill Cavities in Toddlers?
The procedure for filling a child’s cavity is similar to that of an adult. The dentist will check the child’s tooth (or teeth) to assess the severity of the situation. Depending on the cavity condition, the dentist will use one of two methods to fix the problem:
- A filling
- A crown
Here’s a more in-depth look at what happens when a child gets a filling:
Baby Tooth Fillings
A dental filling is a common solution for children who have one or more small cavities. Like an adult filling, the dentist will:
- Gently remove the decay
- Fill the hole with a composite or metal material
- Adhere the material to the tooth
And that’s it. The procedure is usually quick and simple, and the tooth (or teeth) with cavities are further preserved.
Children under the age of 8 are typically referred to a pediatric specialist, as they have the ability to provide expertise in comforting your child as well as offer services like child sedation. It can also be helpful to talk with your child beforehand to explain what will take place.
Baby Tooth Crowns
When tooth decay is more severe, the dentist may decide to use a crown. A crown is a tooth-like cap placed over a tooth to strengthen and restore tooth structure.
Similar to a baby tooth filling, the dental crown procedure is often quick and done in one visit. The dentist will:
- Numb the area where the crown will be placed
- Remove the decay
- Shape the tooth to fit the crown
- Place the crown and cement it in place
Because baby teeth aren’t permanent and will eventually fall out, dentists will often use a less expensive, silver-looking crown for baby teeth. So, don’t be shocked if your child has a silver tooth for a few years. It will come out when the permanent tooth comes in.
Where to Go to Get Your 5-year-old’s Cavity Filling
Cavities form when bacteria and plaque aren’t regularly removed from teeth. Everyone’s teeth are susceptible to cavities and decay, even your child’s teeth. You fight against cavities in your kids’ teeth by:
- Helping them practice good oral hygiene
- Taking them to see the dentist
- Keeping them from sugary foods and drinks
Sometimes cavities will still form when you do these things. If your child does get a cavity on their baby teeth, how do they fill a child’s cavity?
The pediatric dentist will preserve the baby tooth by removing the decay, filling the tooth, or placing a crown on the tooth.
A pediatric dentist may also decide to take preventive measures against cavities and put sealants on your child’s molars.
At Northside Dental Co, we’ll consult with you about your child’s oral hygiene, prescribe the best long-term procedure, and pediatric specialist for filling your child’s cavity.
Book an appointment online today to get your child in for their first appointment.