If you’re reading this, you may have a little one with a suspected cavity. You may have heard cavities on baby teeth are not a big deal. After all, baby teeth will just fall out anyway, right? While it doesn’t necessarily warrant an emergency dentist visit, visiting your family dentist is recommended. In the meantime, there are specific factors to be mindful of…

Timing is Important!

Timing is critical in determining whether baby teeth need to be fixed. If the tooth is within weeks or sometimes months of coming out, it may be possible to leave it as is, even if it has decayed. However, this is only if the cavity is small enough that it won’t cause an infection before the tooth falls out.

Location, Location, Location!

While timing is important, we must also consider the tooth’s placement in the mouth. What tooth or teeth is it touching? Is it another baby tooth, or is it an adult tooth? If just one tooth has a cavity, the other teeth are more susceptible to cavities because the cavity-causing bacteria roam in the mouth. Yes, you can also transfer the bacteria to other people! So if you are a parent and believe you have decay in your mouth, it’s best to avoid sharing food with your kids!

Consequences of Leaving a Baby’s Tooth With a Cavity

There are multiple consequences to leaving a baby’s tooth with a cavity. One is the transfer of the cavity to other teeth, as mentioned above. This is especially important if your child already has adult teeth in the mouth.

Other consequences include:

  • Pain: If a cavity spreads to the nerve at the centre of the tooth, this will cause a lot of pain.
  • Infection: It can also lead to an infection that can eventually spread to the rest of the body, including the brain.
  • Difficulty chewing: The resulting pain in your baby’s cavity can lead to difficulty chewing. And this can eventually lead to malnutrition if left untreated.
  • Abscess: An abscess (a painful pus collection caused by bacteria) can form with a severe enough decay. And this can result in permanent damage to your child’s adult teeth.

Also, if an adult tooth will ultimately replace the baby tooth in question, it is not uncommon to have a missing adult tooth, in which case we want to preserve the baby tooth for as long as possible. This can be determined by your family dentist when they take a radiograph called the panoramic x-ray, which shows the entire jaw.

Finally, baby teeth play an important role in preserving the space for adult teeth. If your baby’s tooth is lost early due to decay, adjacent teeth will shift into the space where the adult tooth is supposed to come in. This will cause the adult tooth to come in ‘malaligned’ or out of position. Preserving baby teeth may minimize or even eliminate the need for braces in the future.