Cavities or tooth decay is the result of the acidic breakdown of tooth structure caused by sugar-consuming bacteria that occur naturally in the mouth. Untreated tooth decay can lead to pain, abscesses, the loss of teeth or even systemic infection. Fortunately, cavities can be treated with a high rate of success especially if they are diagnosed early.
Treating cavities in the baby teeth or primary dentition is important because baby teeth play an essential role in eating, speech, and self-image. The baby teeth also serve as placeholders for the developing permanent teeth some of which do not erupt until twelve years of age. Hence, the baby teeth have big jobs to do.
Cavities are identified visually, with a dental explorer where deep pits and fissures are examined for “sticky” areas, or by x-rays. X-rays allow portions of the tooth to be visualized that are normally hidden from view such as the area in between the teeth and under the outer enamel surface. X-rays also show the extensiveness of cavities and allow the monitoring of dental development as well as help in identifying diseases of the teeth and jaws. Digital radiographs (x-rays) use about 1/4 of the radiation of traditional x-rays and lead barriers are used to greatly reduce patient exposure.
In the event that cavities are diagnosed the teeth can be restored in a variety of ways. Tooth colored fillings or composites are strong, safe, and natural looking and are quick and easy to place.
In the extent that cavities are large and require the removal of considerable amounts of tooth structure, a stainless steel crown may be the best restoration. Stainless steel crowns do not contain mercury and are very durable. Essentially, a “hat” is placed over the remaining tooth structure and is lost when the remainder of the tooth exfoliates naturally.
Pulpal therapy may be necessary if decay extends to the nerve of a tooth or the tooth is injured in an accident. In this instance the nerve is either removed or treated with medications to preserve the root structure until the tooth is lost normally. Teeth are only extracted when a tooth is unable to be restored due to extensive decay, abscess, or severe injury. If a tooth is lost prematurely, a space maintaining appliance may be placed to allow proper eruption of the permanent tooth.
At Frederick KiDDS Pediatric Dentistry we understand that the diagnosis of cavities can cause anxiety for patients and parents alike. It is our greatest desire that your child have the best experience possible while we restore their mouth to optimal health and for that we need your help. We ask that you refrain from the use of words like shot, needle, hurt, and pulling teeth. Rather let your child know that the dentist is there to help fix their teeth and that their appointment will be easy and oftentimes, fun.
Our team will explain the procedure to your child in terms they can relate to such as tooth sleepy juice (local anesthetic), special toothbrush (dental handpiece), and white star (composite filling) and guide them through the procedure. Our office offers nitrous oxide or laughing gas and oral sedative medications when necessary to help our patients who are anxious or may not be able to cooperate fully for restorative care.
After treatment it is important to reassure your child know that the numb feeling in their cheeks, lips, or tongues will go away with time and that they do not look any differently than they did prior to treatment. Reinforce the good experience they had and praise them for their cooperation to ensure a positive experience at future visits.
In the event that a child can not be treated in the office either due to extensive cavities, special health care needs, or when treatment can not be performed safely due to behavior, treatment may be completed under general anesthesia at the hospital.