If you’ve ever had a child with a cavity that needed to be filled, you’re probably asked “Why? Isn’t that tooth going to fall out anyway?” This is a wonderful question that most parents have asked to their child’s dentist. While baby teeth are made to eventually fall out, they also play an important role in the development of the permanent tooth forming underneath.
Baby teeth act as a placeholder for the tooth underneath. When a tooth is lost prematurely, the adjacent teeth can shift into the space, making it too small for the underlying tooth to erupt into. This causes crowding or impacted teeth requiring orthodontic intervention to correct. In some cases where the tooth is decayed too badly and must be extracted, a temporary space maintainer should be put in place.
Because baby teeth are less dense than permanent teeth, they decay at a much faster pace. Even a small cavity that is not addressed early on can quickly become an abscessed tooth requiring treatment involving the nerve and the placement of a temporary crown in order to retain the tooth. Early intervention allows treatment to be smaller and less expensive.
When decay is left untreated, it can cause the dental infection to spread into the area of the permanent tooth as well as other areas of the body. In rare cases, dental abscesses that are not treated can contribute to other conditions such as pneumonia, endocarditis and abscesses of the brain.
The best way to prevent severe dental problems in your children’s teeth is to have them checked early on and regularly to address any needs. Young children should be seen by a pediatric dentist. The AAPD recommends a dental screening for your child by age 1 or when the first tooth erupts.
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