One of the most common conversations I have with my patients’ parents is about why we restore cavities on baby teeth when we know that they will eventually be lost. Of course there are times when we may decide to “watch” a cavity based on the expectation that the tooth in question will fall out naturally before a problem develops, but many primary teeth are not lost until age 12 or 13 (on average). In many cases we are driven to treat cavities in primary teeth when they increase your child’s risk for pain, infection, or orthodontic (space) problems.
Since the enamel in primary teeth is thinner than in adult teeth, childhood cavities can spread quickly as they work their way toward the pulp (nerve and blood vessel) of the tooth. As the cavity deepens, painful sensitivity can develop which progresses to spontaneous, often severe, pain as the pulp becomes infected. Without treatment, these infected teeth often lead to dental abscesses which require extraction of the involved teeth, and in severe situations may lead to facial infection and hospitalization. In some situations, orthodontic problems arise after extractions when neighboring teeth drift into the extraction site and limit the space available for eruption of permanent teeth.
This explanation is not meant to scare anyone into seeking dental treatment and I’m not saying that children with severe cavities will all end up in braces, but I believe that it is important to understand that childhood dental decay is a serious problem that we are committed to helping control. You can be confident that at Pediatric Dentistry we know that each child’s situation is unique and that any treatment proposed is based on what we believe to be in his or her best interest.
Thanks for reading, and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions,
Evan Shaw, DMD