Decay on Baby Teeth: To Fill or Not to Fill

If your dentist finds signs of decay on your child's baby teeth, you'd expect a filling to follow. Although some people may not see the point of treating problems in baby teeth, it's still important to take care of any problems that arise with these teeth. However, in some cases, your dentist may see decay but opt not to fill.

Why Fill Baby Teeth?

Some people believe that there isn't any point treating baby teeth in the same way as you'd treat adult teeth given their relatively short life span. You aren't likely to find that your dentist subscribes to this belief. In fact, your dentist may advise dealing with decay on baby teeth as quickly as possible. These teeth are relatively small and decay may develop much faster than it would on permanent teeth.

On one level, this protects your child from developing potentially painful problems. For example, the Better Health Channel states that leaving decay untreated may lead to problems such as tooth pain, advanced decay or abscesses. These problems could cause your child significant pain and require more advanced treatment than a simple filling. Your child also needs a full set of healthy teeth to be able to eat and develop speech correctly.

On another level, protecting baby teeth also protects the adult teeth that sit behind them. For example, if decay on a baby tooth is not treated, it could spread very quickly and, in the worst case scenario, the tooth may need to be extracted. If a baby tooth is taken out too early, adjacent teeth may move to fill the gap, leaving insufficient room for the permanent tooth to come through when it is ready. Although you can remedy this by using spacer devices to keep the gap open, this additional treatment could be avoided if the decay is dealt with earlier. Plus, decay on a baby tooth may well transfer to the permanent tooth if left untreated.

When Don't Dentists Fill Baby Teeth?

Your dentist may advise against filling a baby tooth if the tooth is close to falling out. There may be little point treating the tooth at this stage, especially if it is wobbly and ready to go.

Tip: If your dentist decides not to deal with decay on one of your child's baby teeth, make sure to find out why. For example, if the tooth is nowhere near ready to come out or if your child is complaining of toothache or increased sensitivity when eating or drinking, then it's best not to ignore the problem. If you're worried that your dentist is not making the right call, get a second opinion.