One of the largest misconceptions that many adults have about baby teeth, is that since they will fall out sooner than later, their care is not as important as the care of adult teeth. Taking care of a child’s teeth during the first half of their life is extremely important because this is when they are at highest risk for cavities. The first set of teeth determines the health of the permanent teeth, how they will grow in, and whether they will have enough room to grow in. This is why it is vital to start oral care as soon as a baby’s teeth begin to grow in. For some children, despite having a consistent oral hygiene routine, cavities are inevitable, but they don’t have to be as scary as they sound!
What Causes Cavities in Children?
Cavities are typically caused by a combination of bacteria and certain foods eaten. When a child eats and drinks items that are high in sugar and carbohydrates, these ingredients tend to stick onto the teeth. Once the sugar comes into contact with the teeth, the bacteria activates and turns the sugar into an acid. The combination of sugar, bacteria, and acid is what creates the plaque that sticks to teeth. Over time, the acids that formed from the bacteria, break down the tooth enamel which is what eventually causes cavities.
There are many different reasons why a child might develop cavities, but a few of the main issues are:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Water that is lacking fluoride
- High sugar diet high
Having poor oral hygiene can greatly affect the overall health of a child as well as their quality of life. A child should be brushing their teeth at least twice a day and following up with mouthwash and floss once a day. These steps are extremely important in children because they are more prone to getting cavities. Although having good oral hygiene will not prevent cavities 100%, it greatly lessens their risk.
Water that is lacking fluoride can also be detrimental to a child’s oral health because fluoride is the agent that helps strengthen teeth to be able to fight off and prevent cavities. Often times areas that do not have clean water also don’t have fluoride which is why there might be higher rates of children with cavities.
Having a diet high in sugar damages the teeth, as mentioned above, and it also damages a child’s overall health. Having sugar and carbohydrates in moderation is permitted, but the child should always follow up with teeth brushing. Genetics can play a huge part in whether or not a person has healthy teeth. Some people are more prone to cavities, making their oral hygiene even more vital. The reason being decay causing bacteria that is passed down through families.
When a baby is born, they do not have any cavity-causing bacteria in their mouths. Studies show that the reason this bacteria is introduced is because parents transfer saliva into their child’s mouth. This can occur when a parent feeds their baby with the same spoon they are using or if they use the same toothbrush that is used on themselves. If the parents have had cavities in the past or currently has cavities, it is very likely they will pass this bacteria into their child’s mouth.
Baby Teeth with Cavities
Although baby teeth do fall out as a child matures, their care is still extremely important because they are still needed for a few years to function. Typically, common signs of cavities in baby teeth are very similar to the symptoms that an adult would experience if they had cavities. There will be tooth pain when chewing food or brushing teeth, heightened sensitivity to hot or cold beverage and food temperatures, and bad breath that cannot be eradicated by brushing and mouthwash.
If a child has a cavity, the dentist will need to drill out the cavity in the baby teeth and proceed to either fill it or place a crown over the area. In this scenario, dentists prefer to leave the tooth rather than pull it because losing teeth too early can damage the future of the permanent tooth.
Types of Fillings
When a child has a cavity, treatment typically consists of a filling, but the type of filling can vary based on their age, health, and condition. Cavity treatment usually consists of partial removal of the decayed tooth and replacing it with a filling. The purpose of a filling is to replace the remove the missing part of the tooth and to prevent cavities in the future. There are two types of fillings:
- Direct fillings can typically be done in one visit to the office and they consist of a tooth-colored material. These materials can range from silvers, acrylic acids, resin, or fine glass powders.
- Indirect fillings require at least two visits and they include inlays, onlays, veneers, crowns, veneers, and bridges. These are made with gold, base metal alloys, ceramics, or composites.
If your child does need a filling, it is best to give them a metal filling rather than a tooth colored one. The reason behind this is that they are more cost efficient and the baby tooth will eventually fall out. Metal fillings are also known to last longer (if placed on a child’s permanent teeth) and can last up to 12.8 years in comparison to resin fillings that usually last about 7 years. Choosing the right type of filling for your child depends on budget, appearance, condition, and longevity.
Recurring Tooth Decay
Depending on the child, their genetics, and oral hygiene habits, sometimes a cavity can come back even if all the tooth decay was previously removed. Although a filling can help to repair a tooth that previously had a cavity, it does not promise that it will not come back. If the cavity was in between teeth, there is a higher chance of recurrence in comparison to cavities that are on exposed teeth surfaces. This is why flossing is important. It removes plaque in between teeth where cavities can form. If a cavity does come back, the dentist must remove the old filling, the new tooth decay, and replace the filling again.
Sedation During Fillings
Visiting the dentist can be terrifying for some children and that fear can prevent a dentist from properly being able to perform any procedure. Luckily, New Generation Dentistry offers two different sedation methods to calm your child’s nerves:
- Nitrous oxide, also known as laughing gas, can provide a lot of relief for children that are extremely anxious at the dentist and helps to distract them from the pain that comes along with getting a cavity filled. Administering laughing gas can also reduce the gag reflex, which can also be an issue during cavity fillings.
- General anesthesia is another option offered at New Generation. Although this method is more extreme than laughing gas, if a child has multiple procedures to endure and is too nervous, general anesthesia can be a solution. This solution can ensure that your child’s procedures will be taken care of without them being overly nervous and when they wake up, all their work will be done.
To learn more about how you can prevent cavities in your child, check out our article written about Preventative Care. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give us a call at (949)-353-6139, or fill out our contact form here!