As a parent –– especially if you’re a new parent –– you may not have considered the possibility of cavities in toddlers. These cavities put your child’s health and future oral hygiene at risk. That’s why it’s so important to schedule an appointment with a dentist immediately if you notice cavities in their baby teeth.
Your child’s temporary baby teeth serve several important roles that help ensure better oral hygiene as your child ages. Ideally, they should remain healthy and whole until they are eventually guided out of your child’s mouth by their emerging adult teeth.
Baby teeth help your child’s mouth form properly as they age and grow, creating the necessary space for adult teeth to emerge into, already spaced evenly and appropriately. As cavities and tooth decay can weaken and even change the shape of baby teeth, they can create issues with the emergence of adult teeth as well as potential oral health problems like gum disease or irritation.
The Primary Causes of Cavities in Toddlers
One of the leading causes of cavities and decay in young children is putting them down at night with a bottle or sippy cup with juice or milk. Many parents do this because it was how they were raised, and they believe they are giving their child something soothing. However, this can lead to a condition known as Baby Bottle Mouth Syndrome where the teeth the bottle rests against, usually the front teeth, begin to decay. This is caused by the build-up of acids and bacteria against hose teeth. Decay can be heavy, eating away at the enamel and pulp of the teeth, irritating the gums and even changing your child’s mouth alignment.
Another leading cause is poor dental hygiene. You should begin brushing your infant’s teeth and gums as their first teeth emerge, which can be as early as 4 months old. As they age and begin to take over the tasks themselves, remember that you are not just teaching them for now, you’re teaching them for life. That’s why children should be taught good oral hygiene habits from an early age, and there is no better place to practice those habits than on their own baby teeth, a process that actively engages toddlers in fighting cavities.
Identifying the Symptoms of Cavities and Tooth Decay
There are several key symptoms of tooth decay that can alert you to a potential problem. Of course, one of the best ways to find out about potential issues early is to schedule regular visits with your child’s dentist. We offer free preventative services for children under three because the best way to treat cavities in toddlers is to avoid them in the first place.
At home, regularly check your child’s teeth and gums for any sign of discoloration. Dark spots on the teeth, an absence of enamel, or what appears to be a crack or crevice could be an early sign of tooth decay. Gums that are red or inflamed can be a sign of irritation or infection, especially if your child is complaining of pain. Also, don’t forget to check their teeth after trauma. Stumbles and bumps happen, but if the mouth is impacted, it could lead to chipped, cracked, or misaligned teeth.
How a Pediatric Dentist Treats Cavities in Toddlers
Many of the same treatments available for adult teeth will also work on baby teeth when needed. The first step of treating a cavity is to remove the decayed tooth material that, if left untreated, could spread to adjoining teeth, the gums, or even the adult teeth lying below the surface. Usually, this means drilling.
The child will be given an appropriate general anesthetic, such as nitrous oxide, commonly called laughing gas. This helps relax the child and will help ease the potential pain. A local anesthetic may then be administered near the site of the tooth to deaden the immediate area. For cavities in toddler suffering from a higher level of anxiety or sensitivity, your dentist may choose sedation for the procedure.
Once the decayed material is removed, the void will be filled and protected with either a filling or crown. Smaller voids may only require a small amount of filling material that, once hardened, will largely restore their tooth’s integrity. Larger gaps may receive a crown or cap that fits over the damaged tooth for additional protection.
If a tooth can’t be repaired, your child’s dentist may decide to extract it completely. Usually, this tooth will be replaced by a dental prosthetic that will help maintain proper spacing to minimize the effects on their adult tooth formation.
Recovering From Cavities in Toddlers
The goal of any dental treatment for young children is to give them the best chance for normal, healthy oral health as they age. The dentist will talk to you about any specific care and recovery instructions for immediately after the procedure, including when to return to a normal dental hygiene routine. Creating a positive habit of consistent brushing, flossing, and usage of mouthwash is key to not only protecting their new dental work but protecting the health of all their teeth, both baby and adult.
Schedule Your Appointment with Children’s Dentistry
When dealing with cavities in toddlers, there is no such thing as detection too early, and it’s far better to be safe than sorry. At Children’s Dentistry of Las Vegas, we specialize in treating children and provide a complete range of pediatric dental services. If you have any concerns about your children’s teeth or it’s just time for their regular checkup, contact us to schedule an appointment today.