Sometimes, even if your whole family is diligent about good oral hygiene, children do get cavities. Once a cavity has formed, it is important to treat it as soon as possible.
Treating a cavity early on can halt further tooth decay and prevent additional cavities. There are several different options for treating cavities in children, and parents should be actively involved in helping to making those decisions with the dentist’s recommendations.
Fillings are most effective in cases of minor tooth decay, and cover a small area of the tooth by filling in the hole in the tooth caused by the cavity. Amalgam fillings are generally white or silver in color, and are made from a mixture of silver, tin, zinc, copper and mercury. Composite fillings are another option, designed to match the color of the tooth, and are made from a mixture of plastic and fine glass particles.
A crown is made specifically for your mouth, and covers the entire top of the tooth. This is the best treatment choice if a cavity is large or affects several areas of the tooth. Crowns are made of metal, ceramic, or sometimes a combination of the two.
If a primary tooth falls out too soon, whether from decay or an accident, a space maintainer may be used to hold its place and keep the surrounding teeth from crowding the space. Otherwise, the adult tooth may come in crooked or crowded which can affect your child’s ability to talk and chew.
In extreme cases of tooth decay, the nerve of the tooth may become infected. At this point, a dentist may have to perform a root canal to remove the nerve tissue inside the root to stop the pain and rid the tooth of infection..
For some treatments and some children, dentists choose to use sedation dentistry to help make extensive dental work a smoother experience. Different levels and options are available, so it’s important to discuss with your dentist about which options are best for your child.
- Nitrous Oxide
Also known as laughing gas, this treatment relaxes children without putting them to sleep. It is given through a small breathing mask and is recognized by the AAPD as safe for children.
- General Anesthesia
For more extensive procedures, general anesthesia is sometimes used to allow children to be completely asleep. While this course of action comes with some risks, your dentist may still recommend it if the benefits outweigh the risks, particularly if being awake would cause your child too much emotional or physical pain. The AAPD has recognized that there are patients who benefit from such deep sedation or general anesthesia.
These treatment options to fix cavities may seem challenging, especially when you think of your child going through them, but the risk of forgoing treatment altogether is usually worse. If left unattended, cavities can cause pain, swelling, infection, the spread of tooth decay, damage to developing adult teeth, and your child can even be hospitalized due to dental infection.
Talk with your dentist about the best options for treating your child’s cavities and get the highest quality care as soon as possible.