Why Fix Baby Teeth? Q&A

Baby teeth are important for oral health.  

You brought your child to the dentist for a routine dental visit and found out there is a small tooth cavity. One of the most common questions parents will ask the dentist is “Do we need to fix a cavity on a baby tooth if it will fall out?” While baby teeth do eventually fall out, they serve several important purposes until they are naturally ready to exfoliate. 

Why is it important to fix baby teeth?

Baby teeth serve as natural space holders to allow permanent teeth to erupt properly, but there are also major problems that can develop if tooth decay is left untreated. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) reports that tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease, even five times more common than asthma. The pain caused by tooth decay can lead to poor oral health, general health, and even affect children’s education because of missed school days. If you don’t fix baby teeth the main consequences include the following.

Difficulty eating: Leaving tooth decay in children can lead to painful and uncomfortable eating. Some children will avoid chewing on one or both sides of their mouth which can eventually affect their nutrition and overall health. A cavity filling will help restore the tooth and make it more comfortable for your child to enjoy eating. 

Affected speech: Cavities can become painful and if left untreated can lead to speech problems. Our teeth influence how we speak and the sounds we make. Being without teeth can cause a speech impediment and also contribute to poor communication and confidence.

Lack of self-esteem: Missing teeth or rotted teeth can cause children to have a lack of confidence or poor self-image. Some children will refrain from smiling and it can have an impact on their social lives.

Future dental problems: Tooth decay is like a domino effect. When one tooth becomes decayed and is left untreated, decay can spread to adjacent teeth causing more tooth decay. It is a misconception that tooth decay is not an infection. Tooth decay is caused by bacteria and can lead to pain, infection, and other serious health issues. Lastly, untreated dental problems lead to more serious dental issues like tooth loss, the shifting of teeth, jaw problems, and impacted teeth. 

It will be worth it to fix those baby teeth, avoid all of these issues, and have a happy, healthy child.

When do baby teeth fall out?

A child develops 20 baby teeth from usually around four months of age to age 3. All of the baby teeth eventually fall out unless there is an underlying cause like missing adult teeth or impacted teeth. Children will typically begin to lose their front teeth around age 6 and their posterior teeth from ages 10 to 12. 

My child needs pediatric dental crowns. What are my options?

If your child has tooth decay that is large, a dental filling will not be able to restore the tooth. A dental crown is beneficial because it covers the entire tooth providing more support and stability until the baby tooth is ready to fall out. Dentistry for children offers several types of dental crown solutions depending on your needs and budget. There are zirconia white crowns, stainless steel crowns, and a resin-metal crown. Remember that while the tooth will fall out within a number of years, your child needs this crown to eat comfortably and speak properly. 

What should I expect after my child’s dental crown procedure?

A dental crown experience is similar to a simple dental filling. Your child will be given a local anesthetic to numb the area in order to be comfortable during the dental treatment. You can expect the numbness to last for a few hours so it is important to avoid eating until it resolves. Post-anesthetic numbness can cause a child to bite their lip or cheek because they temporarily cannot feel it. Getting your child a smoothie or cold beverage will make them feel more comfortable. If necessary, you can also give over-the-counter children’s acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief. 

Why do you prefer to crown primary teeth rather than pulling them?

A crown helps prevent further breakdown of the tooth and risking fracturing or further tooth decay. Pulling a baby tooth is usually the last treatment resort. Restoring a baby tooth with a crown until it is ready to fall out has several benefits including the following:

  • Baby teeth serve as a natural space holder—if a tooth is pulled too early, your child may need a space maintainer to prevent their other teeth shifting
  • Prevents the delay of eruption of the adult tooth
  • Restores a tooth’s natural function

Is dental sedation safe for children?

If your child needed their tonsils removed to prevent medical problems, you would consider sedation a necessity. Dental sedation is similar, in extreme cases it may be necessary to help safely complete dental treatment. Sedation dentistry is not necessary for every child. But, when there is an extensive amount of dental work that needs to be completed on a young child or a child with special needs, sedation dentistry is a wonderful solution. It is recommended for children who are extremely anxious as we want to help maintain a long-term, healthy relationship in the dental office. 

How do I prevent my child from needing a crown?

The easiest way to prevent the need of a dental crown is practicing good oral hygiene habits and enjoying a balanced, low-sugar diet. Tooth decay is primarily caused by bacterial plaque buildup and the frequent consumption of refined sugars. By brushing and flossing your child’s teeth, attending routine dental visits and avoiding large quantities of sugar, you can help avoid tooth decay altogether. 

If your child has a small cavity, it is important to get it treated quickly to avoid decay from spreading and causing the need for a dental crown. Typically small cavities can be restored with a dental filling, but once the cavity is large enough, it will need a crown to save the tooth.