Do Toddler's Cavities Need to be Filled?

cavities in baby teeth fillings

Photo by The-Autism-Mom

When a friend told me that her five-year-old daughter needed to get a cavity filled, I thought "Why? Isn't the tooth going to fall out anyway?" The kid wasn't in any pain, explained my friend, but the dentist said it was important to fill the tooth to keep her gums healthy.

But just this week, a group of British researchers announced that it may not be necessary to fill decaying baby teeth.

Okay, so I know the British don't have the best reputation when it comes to teeth, but here's what the researchers found after collecting information from 50 dentists: Cavity-ridden baby teeth don't appear to lead to problematic adult teeth.

So why bother filling baby teeth at all? In some cases, a tooth needs to be filled or pulled when the child is in pain. And experts say that problems with teeth can lead to other health problems.

Here in the U.S. tooth decay is on the rise in children ages two to five. Yet one in four children haven't been to the dentist in the past year, and toddlers skip checkups more than kids of of all other ages. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, children should visit a pediatric dentist within six months after the eruption of the first tooth or by age one.

On the other hand, dental work can be expensive, especially if you don't have insurance. And if the new British research is right, you might not have anything to worry about.

What do you think? Will you get your toddler's cavities filled?

doctor visits, health


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RanaA... RanaAurora

Are they absolutely insane?  YES, cavities need to be filled.  Why?  Because you're not just "filling" a hole.  You're scraping out the decay, and then putting stuff in it in an attempt to STOP the decay, and also prevent pain from the decay as well. 
If decay gets into the roots and gums, you can end up with a child who needs a root canal (my son had one at THREE), and it IS proven that decay that gets into the gums and roots CAN lead to already-decaying or damaged adult teeth!

Thank you, by the way, for giving the ACCURATE information on when to take your kiddo to the dentist for the first time.  First birthday or 6 months after the first tooth - whichever comes FIRST!  Don't let dentists tell you it's unnecessary!  Studies show that children whose parents wait until they're three for the first check-up are four times more likely to have childhood cavities!

Cafe... Cafe Sheri

I wish this was true and that they found out about a year and a half ago. My son at 5 years old had some horrific dental problems, six months after a healthy dental check up. He had to have one tooth pulled and several others filled. While I want this news to be true, my dentist explained that decay can lead to infection in the gums, which can, in some cases, lead to hospitization. Of course, I'm all for someone finding out something different, as long as they're right.

mom2-... mom2-2crazyboys

ABSOLUTELY!! Of course the baby teeth will fall out eventually but so does hair and we take care of THAT!!, and hair doesn't even have an important health correlation to our bodies. --Sorry, pet peeve of mine, that mothers will go on and on with their kids hair, but not brush their teeth!!! What is with that!?!?!?---Anyway..... 

Baby teeth have an important job as space holders if nothing else! Not until, the tooth becomes loose on its own (signaling the permanent tooth is ready to move into its place) should the baby tooth come out. If the tooth decay in a baby tooth isn't filled it could completely rot away on its own, cause the child a lot of unnecessary pain. Without the baby tooth holding the space for the permanent tooth, there can be a lot of crowding (aka crooked teeth) in the mouth..causing pain, difficulty in hygiene for crowded teeth, and of course the unpleasant appearance.

 Plus, if the decay becomes bad enough and there are abscesses- that infection CAN effect the developing permanent tooth underlying the baby tooth. If your child had an infection or abscess anywhere else in their wouldn't think twice about getting them treated!!  

Danielle, RDH


RanaA... RanaAurora

Cafe Sheri, we've been through hell with dental stuff too.  Thousands of dollars, and my child had been under anesthesia TWICE before he was even four.  If I thought that could have been avoided, you bet your ASS we wouldn't have done it!

But seriously, infection and decay can get into the root and gums and destroy the jaw, the adult teeth, and even make someone septic and cause infections in the blood stream leading to brain damage.

I'd LOVE to know what this British study says, because I'd love for THEM to try not filling a cavity in THEIR mouths for 4-7 years or more.

Cilla... CillaTexas

This is kinda bad, but my Sister's three year old had to be put under a few months back. In addition to a very badly broken tooth from a strangely angled fall on a kitchen floor, he had caveties in just about all of his teeth.

The good news is, he's very proud of his new pearls, and takes the oppurtunity to show them off. Also, now he enjoys brushing a lot more (it's weird but they would have to hold him down to get them brushed.)

Bad teeth can lead to SERIOUS gum disease, and it doesn't leave just because the tooth falls out.

lucky... luckyshamrock

We are already on the way to cavities.  My daughter has already lost both of her front teeth ( at 19 months and 3 years old).  Both teeth just literally shattered into pieces.  It has been very traumatic for her.  Several teeth have weak enamel (bad enough that I can see the difference in her tooth color). 

We brush 2 times a day.  I am just praying that her permanent teeth are stronger and healthier.

athenax3 athenax3

ugh this whole topic is upsetting my children have all had to have fairly extensive dental work done- despite following all the guidelines and being militant about oral hygiene- and it appears my toddler is heading down the same path- I could just cry- we've been brushing since BEFORE her first tooth (gum cleanser) and she has had regular maintenance and cleanings and still that cavity laughs at me every day when I'm brushing her- it is so frustrating-but I'll get it fixed, my dentist told me cavities are actually contagious and spread not only from tooth to tooth but from person to person- and we can't allow that.

Luckily, my kids seem to have better adutl teeth- thank god.

Bears... BearsMommy

I'm with the others - I find this "study" to be dubious at best.  Having a toddler with dentogenisis imperfecta (lack of properly formed enamel on his teeth), we've put almost $4000 into his smile already - and he's only three AND we have insurance!  (At least, we did - that's a different story.)  I have fought tooth and nail with my in-laws about getting his dental work done.  "They're baby teeth.  They serve no purpose.  It won't matter, they'll fall out."  Suffice to say, he has four crowns and 12 fillings, and probably needs more work done.  We did do all the "right" things - brushing his gums as a baby, flossing his first tooth...  We brush four times a day, and he's on a xylitol regimen, and will be the rest of his life.  (Xylitol prevents the bacteria in the mouth from reproducing, thus reducing bacteria numbers through time.)

To suggest that it would be "fine" to leave toddler teeth alone and not have them fixed is just absurd.  Why do we bother brushing them at all then, if they'll just fall out?  Isn't it far easier to get an older child to brush, and teach them how to brush?  I certainly didn't enjoy trying to brush an 18-month-old's teeth four times a day!

Carri... Carrie131

I found this reassuring, because my 3 year old apparently needs 5 fillings (which shocked us because we brush every night)  - But when I finally gave in to having the procedure done, it took us 45 min. to persuade him to drink the sedative, and after the hour of waiting, he didn't want the rubber block between his teeth.  They finally put him in the papoose and his head still shook side to side, so dentist said "its a no go, it would be too dangerous if I tried"

madam... madamekatekate

True baby teeth do fall out but can you imagine letting all that decay and bacteria stay in your child's mouth for years until it does? Yuck. Like RanaAurora said it isn't simply filling a hole.

Would you not have a caivty in your mouth filled simply because "you may have dentures one day?"

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