This is a very common question that patients or parents of patients ask. It’s a fair question!
Baby teeth fall out anyway – is it important to get them fixed?
Timing is Important!
Timing is actually critical in determining whether baby teeth need to be fixed. If the tooth is within weeks or sometimes even months of coming out, it may be possible to leave the tooth as is, even if it has decay. This is if the cavity is small enough that it is not likely to cause an infection before the tooth falls out.
Location, location, location!
While timing is important, we also need to consider wherethe tooth is in the mouth.
What tooth or teeth is it touching? Is it another baby tooth, or is it an adult tooth? Something that patient may not know is that cavities are contagious!
If the baby tooth has a cavity and is next to an adult tooth, it is only a matter of time before the adult tooth develops a cavity as well.
Furthermore, if just one tooth has a cavity in the mouth, the rest of the teeth in the mouth are more susceptible to getting cavities, because the cavity-causing bacteria are roaming in the mouth.
Yes, this means that you can also transfer the bacteria to other people! If you are a parent and know that you may have decay in your mouth, it’s best to avoid sharing food with your kids!
What happens if we leave a baby tooth with a cavity?
There are multiple consequences to leaving a baby tooth with a cavity. One is the transfer of cavity to other teeth, as mentioned above. This is especially important if the patient has adult teeth in the mouth.
Other consequences include pain and infection. If a cavity spreads to the nerve at the centre of the tooth, this will cause a lot of pain. Furthermore, it can leads to an infection that can eventually spread to the rest of the body, including the brain.
It is also important to know if there is an adult tooth that will eventually 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 the dentist, when they take a radiograph called the panoramic x-ray, which shows the entire jaw.
Finally, baby teeth play a very important role in preserving the space for adult teeth. If a baby 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.
Ultimately, all dental work is the patient’s decision. As a health care professional I feel that it is my role to educate, and not push treatment. Getting to know our patients and answering their questions is our passion at Yankee Valley Dental.
Come visit us for a free consultation!