Pediatric dentists often hear the question, “Do we really need fillings in baby teeth?”
We hear this concern every day. While it’s true that baby teeth come out there are some other considerations that we need to talk about.
Baby teeth serve many functions:
a: Baby teeth help a child to chew food properly. As the first function of the digestive system, baby teeth help the digestive system to stay healthy.
b: Baby teeth help a child to develop speech. The front teeth help the child to develop sounds and letters that are critical to communication.
c: Baby teeth save space for permanent teeth (also called “adult teeth”). They allow a child to grow and save space for the adult teeth to come in. Without the baby teeth biting and chewing problems can develop as the adult teeth come in without enough space.
d: Baby teeth are an important part of aesthetics and the way a child gains self-confidence. Missing or decayed baby teeth can lead to negative self image in ways that stay with a child for life.
It is a fact that 42% of children aged 2 to 11 years old have had cavities. Sixty percent of children have cavities before they are 5 years old, with those baby teeth requiring fillings. This is outlined in the info-graphic below along with other facts about baby teeth.
A few more fun facts about fillings and primary teeth:
- Untreated cavities can cause more cavities. When decay is present in the mouth, the germs spread to other teeth, which could turn one cavity into many in a relatively short period of time. Cavities are contagious, so fillings stop the decay process, preventing other cavities. (source credit: https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/research/data-statistics/dental-caries/children)
- Dental cavities in your child are the same as the ones you get as an adult. Contrary to popular thought, baby teeth have roots! This means that they can cause pain and swelling. This type of discomfort can be enough to distract from their studies, causing them to get lower grades, or even miss school altogether. Fillings are a much cheaper option to missing work and school. (Source credit: https://www.cdhp.org/state-of-dental-health/schoolandbeyond.)
- Untreated cavities in baby teeth can lead to pain and abscesses (infection). A North Carolina study found that children with poor oral health were 3 times more likely to miss school because of a toothache. An estimated 51 million school hours are lost in the US each year due to dental pain. Fillings are a viable way to make sure that school and work hours aren’t missed. (source credit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222359/)
- The worst time for a toothache is on a weekend or holiday when most dental offices are closed. Fillings reduce the risk of that happening. Opting for a dental filling makes it less likely that you have that helpless feeling when it comes to your child being in pain.
- Dental fillings stop the progress of decay and allow children to keep their primary teeth. This is important because primary teeth serve as space holders for the unformed permanent teeth. Pulling baby teeth before the adult teeth are ready to erupt causes the teeth to shift often resulting in the need for braces — which may cost over $6,000! Talk about saving money!! Fillings in baby teeth are definitely a cheaper option. Consult a pediatric dentist for more details.
- Finally, taking care of your child’s baby teeth is an important opportunity to teach your children how to take care of their teeth and their dental health. Neglecting to fill baby teeth can be the wrong message to send.
The earlier a pediatric dentist treats the decay in a baby tooth, the easier it is to prevent the spread of decay and further issues. This is why we often recommend fluoride toothpaste.
We have many child tooth decay treatment options, and want to work with you to keep your child in school, out of pain, and learning how to take care of their teeth!
Shout out to our sources of additional dental information for your reading pleasure!