When your child'spediatric dentist informs you your child needs a filling on a primary tooth, you may be wondering why the dentist would even want to fix this tooth. After all, it's just a baby tooth. The trouble is if you do not get the tooth fixed, the problem could get worse. When this happens, there are three options you have to choose from, but fixing the tooth is your best bet.
Option 1: Leave the Tooth
The first option you could choose is to do nothing and leave the tooth as it is. This is something you may consider doing if the tooth is about to fall out, but you may not want to choose this option if the tooth will not fall out for a while.
Most kids begin losing their primary teeth when they are around the age of four; however, this typically only involves the front teeth. Your child will probably not lose any molars until he or she is around 12 years old.
If you decide to leave the decay in the tooth, you should realize you are taking a risk. If this tooth does not fall out soon, the decay can spread. It may spread to teeth next to this particular tooth, or it could spread to the permanent tooth underneath the baby tooth.
Option 2: Pull the Tooth
The second choice you have is to have the dentist remove the tooth through tooth extraction. This often seems like the best option to most parents because it makes more sense than fixing a tooth that will be falling out in the future. While this may seem like a good idea, it may not be your best option.
The only time a dentist may recommend removing an infected tooth is if the permanent tooth is already erupting. Your child's dentist will be able to see this by looking at x-rays of the child's mouth. If the permanent tooth is nowhere near erupting through the gums, pulling this tooth could cause problems, and the main problem is spacing.
When you remove a baby tooth when a permanent tooth is not yet there, it will leave a gap. This gap can end up causing spacing issues with other teeth, because there will be nothing there to guide the new teeth as to where they belong. This could cause your child's teeth to become crooked and misaligned. The other problem this can cause is trouble with speech. Your teeth are a necessary part of speaking, and without them, it can be difficult to say certain sounds.
If you really want the tooth pulled, you could talk to the pediatric dentist about installing a spacer in the child's mouth. A spacer is an item normally attached to the teeth next to the gap, and it is designed to keep this particular space open when a tooth is not present. These are often used when primary teeth fall out prematurely.
Option 3: Fix the Tooth
The best option for decay on a baby tooth is to fix it. If the decay is minor, the dentist can simply remove it from the tooth and replace it with a standard filling. If the decay has progressed a lot and is advanced, the dentist may recommend placing a dental crown over the tooth. This is only done if the dentist must remove a lot of the tooth to clear away the decay.
There is also a chance the tooth may need a pulpotomy, or root canal, in order to save it. This is something necessary if the decay has spread too far inside the tooth, or into the bone under the tooth.
Leaving decay in a child's mouth is never a good solution, but removing teeth is not a good idea either unless it is absolutely necessary. To learn more about your options and dental work for kids, talk to your child's pediatric dentist.