I know that you never ever want your child to develop a cavity. But, sometimes things happen.
Cavities develop in combination with several factors. Like not brushing your little one’s teeth, lots of snacks high in carbs and sugars or a cup of juice or milk before going to sleep (but not brushing afterward).
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The enamel on baby teeth is so thin so it doesn’t take long for a cavity to grow significantly on a baby tooth.
By the time you actually see something on those baby teeth that looks suspicious, there is probably a pretty large cavity hiding.
Because the nerve inside of a baby tooth is so big, it takes no time for that cavity to travel and start causing your little one discomfort.
This is why when your child’s dentist sees a cavity forming, they are quick to repair it with filling before it becomes a bigger problem.
When cavities get large they require more treatment to fix them, which means more money. Typically this involves a stainless steel crown (or cap) sometimes in combination with a pulpotomy (or baby root canal).
Stainless steel crowns or caps
A stainless steel crown or cap is a prefabricate crown (or cap) made to fit over your child’s tooth. The dentist will remove all of the decay on the tooth, then fit and cement the cap on the tooth.
The reasons why a silver cap is a trusted option is because they are:
- Inexpensive (in comparison to an adult crown)
- Less likely to need to be replaced or fixed
- Fully protects the tooth
If the nerve of the tooth is involved, then pulpal therapy or a baby root canal is needed. This is done before the silver cap is cemented on.
You can see in the picture below, from Dr. Sue Yang, a silver cap on a baby tooth on both sides.
I must admit that it is not the most esthetic. There is some dentist that do special crowns that are tooth colored and look more natural.
I personally do not use them. They are more expensive, technic sensitive and take longer to place.
The good news is these crowns stay on the baby tooth until it is time for the entire tooth to fall out.
Why should baby teeth be saved?
The most popular questions I get from parents when they are told that their child needs a cap and/or a baby root canal is “why would you try to save the baby tooth? Why don’t you just pull it?”
Or I get … “They are just baby teeth, right? So those teeth are going to fall out anyway, so they don’t need to be fixed.”
So let’s go through and answer those questions.
They just baby teeth right? Yes, you’re right. They are baby teeth.
Yes, they will eventually fall out as the permanent or adult teeth come in.
The only problem is if your child is let’s say 6 years old and their back tooth is the one with a really large cavity, that tooth is not going to fall out anytime soon.
Actually, that tooth won’t fall out until your child is 11 or as late as 13. Or even later, because I just met an 18-year-old with those teeth that are just now getting loose.
Can you imagine what can happen if a 6-year-old walks around with a big cavity for another 6 years?
Risk of infection
If your child is not due to have the tooth fall out for several years and the cavity is left untreated your child can suffer from pain and discomfort.
The worst that can happen is the infection from the tooth spread and put your child in the hospital and threaten their life.
Sadly, there have been cases of death due to a tooth infection.
Guiding the permanent teeth
Another reason why baby teeth should be saved is that they guide the path for the permanent teeth to come in.
If a baby tooth is lost prematurely, the teeth on either side can tip and move. This can then prevent the permanent tooth from coming in or cause the permanent tooth to become impacted.
Or the teeth can shift so much that the center teeth don’t line up with the center of the face.
All of this will require extensive treatment with braces to correct. Which is even more expensive and time-consuming later than saving the baby tooth now.
Impact on appearance and speech
Lastly, losing teeth early can impact your child’s speech and appearance.
Depending on the age of your child, other kids can give your child a hard time because of the appearance of their smile.
How to prevent cavities
So, what can be done to prevent cavities in the future?
For babies …
Start early. Like as soon as your child comes home from the hospital. I know it seems a bit much, but trust me.
Start by wiping your baby’s gums after feeding with a washcloth or gauze. Then when your baby’s first teeth come in, continue with the washcloth or gauze to clean those little teeth.
You can later graduate to a finger toothbrush and then an actual toothbrush.
Avoid putting your baby to bed with a bottle to prevent baby bottle decay. Even when your child gets older, don’t let them go to sleep with juice or milk. Only water.
If you or another family member has cavities, avoid sharing utensils at mealtime, testing foods before giving it to your baby, or cleaning a pacifier off with your mouth.
The bacteria that cause cavities in your mouth can be transferred to your baby through your spit.
Lastly, make sure you take your child to the dentist by their first birthday or when their first tooth erupts.
For big kids
At home you want to make sure that you are:
- Brushing twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste with the ADA seal of acceptance.
- Use ACT mouth rinse daily if your child is old enough to spit.
- Decrease the number of snacks that are high in carbs and sugars.
If you need help with motivation or making brushing not so painful, I can help you with that here.
Choose better snacks
Dr Lucas from thedentistdad.com explains the correlation to the food and risk for cavities. Even if you feed your child a nutritious diet and never eat candy, your child can still develop cavities.
Check out this snack guide:
Wrapping this up
I know that dental treatment can be expensive … really kids, in general, can be expensive. I know that you want to do what is best for your child. Saving your child’s teeth is what’s best.
Losing teeth prematurely only adds up to an expensive bill with your orthodontist later.
I know that the silver caps are not the cutest looking things in the world, but they do their job well and many of your kid’s friends will have them. Some kids even wear it like a badge of honor.
Remember to take action when your child is young to start the habit of cleaning their teeth and eating healthy snacks. You got this!