When your child's pediatric dentist tells you that he or she has a few cavities in some baby teeth, your initial instinct might be to have the dentist remove the teeth instead of fixing them; this is a common response from parents. However, it is not always the best option. Removing baby teeth before they are ready to come out can present issues with the child's teeth, and this is why dentists will typically suggest removing and filling the cavities found on primary teeth. Here are several things you should know if you are in this position with your child.
What Are the Dangers of Doing Nothing?
One common misconception parents have is that cavities on baby teeth are not a problem. After all, these teeth will simply fall out, so why fix them? This way of thinking is not exactly true though.
When a baby tooth gets decay on it, the decay will not simply stay in the spot it is in. The decay will grow, and this can lead to an infection inside the tooth or roots of the tooth. This can also cause decay to spread onto other teeth. If the decay spreads too far, it could end up reaching the adult teeth located underneath the gums. In this situation, the child would instantly have problems with his or her adult teeth, because they erupt with decay on them already.
While baby teeth are not permanent, they can affect the adult teeth that are there, and your child will only receive one set of adult teeth. If you help the child care for this set of teeth, they could last for an entire lifetime.
When a pediatric dentist finds decay on a baby tooth, it is better to have the decay removed and the tooth filled. This will not only protect that tooth until it falls out, but it will also protect the adult tooth that will eventually replace the baby tooth.
What Are the Problems With Extracting Baby Teeth?
The second misconception of cavities on baby teeth is that it is better to simply extract the teeth instead of putting the child through the process of getting fillings. This theory too is not a good one, and your child's dentist is not likely to recommend this option unless it meets one of these conditions:
- The adult tooth is already beginning to erupt.
- The tooth has an extreme amount of decay on it.
- The child's mouth is overcrowded.
If a dentist removes a baby tooth before the adult tooth is ready to erupt, it will pose one major problem, which is an unnecessary gap. When there is a gap in the mouth, the other teeth will begin to shift, tip, and move to fill up that space. This can lead to major misalignments with the teeth, which means your child will most likely need braces.
In addition, when there is a missing tooth, your child may have trouble chewing food or speaking clearly. A missing tooth can also pose an embarrassment issue for some children.
If a baby tooth has to be removed prematurely, a dentist will recommend placing a spacer (also called a space maintainer) in the child's mouth. This is a small device that attaches to the two adjacent teeth, and it is designed to save the gap. If the gap is saved, the adult tooth will have plenty of room to grow into place when it erupts.
When a baby tooth has decay, a pediatric dentist may give you several options, but the best one is typically to fill the tooth. To learn more about this or to find ways to protect your child's teeth, schedule an appointment for your child soon.