When Young Children Get Cavities

Jan 31st, 2018 | By | Category: Fresno Pediatric Dentistry

children's fillingsIf you are the parent of a young child you’ve probably worried about the health of his or her teeth. You’ve worked hard to establish good oral hygiene habits and make sure your child has all the tools necessary to keep teeth clean and strong. The second important thing you can do to keep baby teeth safe is to bring your child to Fresno Dental Studio for regular preventive care.

At six-month visits, we will gently clean the teeth, to make sure any calculus (plaque) is removed before it can cause a cavity, polish the teeth, and provide preventive treatments, such as fluoride and sealants. Fluoride gel can strengthen teeth and remineralize weak spots on the enamel, and sealants provide a physical barrier to keep cavities out of the deep crevices in the molars—a place where bacteria love to hide.

Do you need a children’s dentistry provider? Drs. Claudia and Alex Denes can help you keep your child’s teeth clean and healthy, from tot to teen. Call our Fresno dental office at 559-297-1294 or make an appointment online.

Despite all your precautions, however, cavities can develop. Cavities happen when the mouth environment becomes too acidic, as a result of bacterial acids. Consuming starchy foods and sugars can contribute to this, as can erratic brushing habits. Many children have medical factors that can cause the mouth environment to become more acidic. If your child takes medications, they may cause periods of dry mouth that contribute to decay. Even genetic factors can play a role in how well a child’s teeth resist decay.

When a cavity is present in a baby tooth, the usual treatment is a filling or stainless-steel crown, depending on the extent and location of the damage. Baby teeth have thinner enamel than adult teeth, and decay can travel quickly to other teeth, especially between molars. Fillings and crowns allow the child to continue using the tooth until it comes out naturally, and prevents the spread of  decay to other teeth. A crown restores full use of the tooth by attaching a structural replacement to the enamel or root, which entirely surrounds the natural tooth above the gum line.

Why Save Baby Teeth?

There is a natural tendency to wonder why restoring baby teeth is necessary, when they are just going to fall out anyway in a few years. Wouldn’t it be easier to just extract the tooth, perhaps? Easier? Yes. Healthier for the child? No. Baby teeth play an important role in your child’s ability to eat and speak properly. Every one counts. Not only are they important now, but they are important to the growth of adult teeth. Each baby tooth has its own precise timeline for coming out, to make room for adult teeth as they grow in. Losing a baby tooth too early can disrupt a child’s tooth alignment and make adult teeth more vulnerable to decay.

Risks of Neglecting a Cavity in a Baby Tooth

  • Painful toothaches
  • Improper dentition
  • Speech problems
  • Decay can spread to other teeth
  • Premature tooth loss
  • Damage to underlying adult teeth
  • Abscess and infection developing in the gum tissue
  • A lifetime of dental anxiety

That last risk may seem like a bit of a stretch—but a child whose first experiences in a dental office are the result of a severe toothache is going to be a fearful child. Those negative experiences may color the way a child views the dentist’s office for years to come.

If you notice your child avoiding certain foods, speaking strangely, or complaining of a toothache, he or she may have a cavity. Dark spots on the teeth are a visible sign of decay, and you should make an appointment with Dr. Denes immediately.

How to Prepare Young Children for a Filling or Crown

If your child has an upcoming filling or crown on scheduled, there are several ways you can help him or her be prepared for the process. A restorative dental appointment can be a scary thing for a child, especially if there is already pain in the equation.

With young children, it’s always best to explain what will happen in terms they can understand. There is no need to explain the individual steps of the procedure, but a general overview (what will happen, and how they should behave during treatment) will help them feel confident when they walk into the appointment.

Explain that:

  • Dr. Denes is a tooth doctor, and that the tooth is sick. The appointment is to heal the tooth, so it won’t hurt anymore.
  • Dr. Denes will use a special medicine to put the tooth to sleep, so you won’t be able to feel it while they are fixing it.
  • Dr. Denes will use a special tool to remove the cavity, which may make a loud noise.

Let your child know that his or her job during the appointment is very important. Explain that “you’ll need to hold your mouth open, while you lay back in the chair, and listen to the doctor’s instructions.”

Let them know they can always ask to take a break if they need to stop, and show them how to hold up their hand to signal this. Since it’s important to not try to speak during the procedure, let them practice laying back in the chair, using their hand to communicate.

Avoid scary terms like “needle,” “shot,” and “drill” and emphasize that their role in the appointment is as important as Dr. Denes’. If they do not cooperate and work together with the doctor and her assistants, the tooth can’t be healed. Don’t mention “pain” or “hurt” (even to say “it won’t hurt”). Instead, explain that it may feel funny or strange, but it’s okay because that’s how teeth get healed.

Remember, dental anxiety and fear are learned behaviors. If you approach the crown procedure with the calm certainty that it will be fast, easy, and not-too-uncomfortable, your child will have a calmer attitude towards the appointment.

Visit Fresno Dental Studio for Children’s Dentistry

As family and specialty dentists, Drs. Claudia and Alex Denes take care of a lot of baby teeth. A restorative appointment does not need to feel like the end of the world! On the contrary, it can be a valuable learning experience for a child. Many children come away from a filling or crown appointment with a newfound respect for the importance of good oral hygiene habits that they can apply to their adult teeth as they come in. Call our Fresno dental office at 559-297-1294 or make an appointment online.


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