Learning that your child has a cavity can feel like a catastrophe for any parent. You work hard at instilling good oral hygiene routines in your children. Any amount of tooth decay can make you feel like your hard work and parenting are for nothing.
In truth, about 99 percent of Americans have had one or more cavities. With a carbohydrate and sugar-heavy diet, it’s almost inevitable that some decay will occur. The important thing is to learn from the experience, and figure out a way to better protect your child’s teeth in the future. Springs Pediatric Dental Care of Colorado Springs, CO can help you do this.
Children’s teeth in particular are vulnerable to cavities. Their tooth enamel is thinner than adults’ and the teeth are smaller. This means decay can deepen or spread to other teeth much faster than in adult teeth. Luckily, cavities can be caught early and dental fillings can ensure that the decay does not spread. Once the tooth has been restored with a discreet tooth-colored filling, it literally is as “good as new.”
Treating Decay with Dental Fillings
When a child has a cavity, this means that your child’s tooth enamel has been demineralized to the point that a hole has formed. When this happens, we remove the bacteria and decayed tooth matter and fill it up (or cover it) to restore the full structure of the tooth.
If your child maintains a regular schedule of six-month check-ups, we can usually catch cavities while they are small and easy to treat. However, sometimes cavities can deepen and spread to the inside of the tooth, in what’s called the pulp chamber. If your child’s cavity has spread to the pulp chamber, it is necessary to treat the tooth with endodontic therapy (root canal) as well as a filling. A root canal takes a bit longer than a simple filling, but we always make sure our patients are comfortable and feel safe during their treatments.
What Will Happen During the Appointment
At Springs Pediatric Dental Care, we take great efforts to make all children’s dentistry appointments as stress-free as possible. If your child comes to us with any fear or anxiety about getting a filling, we will take the time to make sure he or she is comfortable with what will happen.
If we have not taken an x-ray recently, the appointment will start with one. This shows us how deep the cavity is and whether the tooth will require pulp therapy.
After we take an x-ray, we prepare for the filling. If the cavity is causing any pain for your child, or if it is deep enough to extend into the dentin, we will administer an anesthetic, so the patient feels nothing. We are careful to make sure the patient does not see the needle if it is needed, as we know this can cause anxiety. Many children fear the needle, so this is a standard procedure for all the kids we treat. After your child receives the local anesthetic, we wait until we are confident it has taken full effect before we begin the filling.
Before we can fill the tooth, we treat it, by removing the decayed tooth matter with dental tools. When the tooth is ready, we fill it with dental composite. This material is a mixture of micro-particles of plastic, glass, and silicate, held together in a resin matrix. (We do not use metal dental fillings, so you never need to be worried about mercury.) After the composite is applied, we use a curing light to harden it and bond it to the tooth. Afterwards, we polish and buff the filling, to make sure it does not interfere with your child’s bite, and that it feels natural in his/her mouth.
If a child’s tooth has too much structural damage, we may instead treat it with a stainless-steel crown. This will protect the tooth and keep its structure intact until the adult tooth is ready to come in.
What Caused My Child’s Cavity?
We all know that eating sugary foods and not brushing your teeth properly are good ways to get cavities—but do you understand how cavities form? Understanding how it works can help you prevent decay in the future.
All tooth decay is caused by an acidic environment in the mouth. Acidic foods and beverages can contribute to this, but it’s mostly bacterial acids that demineralize tooth enamel. We all have mouth bacteria, no matter how thoroughly we brush and floss our teeth each day, so there’s really no getting rid of them permanently.
The best way to control bacterial growth in the mouth is to not feed the bacteria. Leaving food residue on the teeth feeds bacteria, which then “poop” out the acids that cause cavities. The foods that stick to the teeth and feed bacteria the worst contain starchy carbohydrates and sugars:
- Fruit juice
- Sodas and sports drinks
- Peanut butter and jelly
- Potato chips
- Chewy fruit snacks
- Breakfast cereals and cereal bars
If you or your child can’t brush your teeth after eating sugary/starchy foods, there are other ways to protect the teeth. Simply rinsing with water after eating these foods can go a long way to preventing decay. Chewing sugarless gum is another good method, because it stimulates saliva production to rinse away food and neutralize acids.
In addition to knowing the foods to avoid, it may be helpful to know which foods can actually clean the teeth. Many healthy foods have a positive effect on the mouth environment because their texture cleans the teeth.
Virtually any crunchy fruits and vegetable can clean the teeth.
- Broccoli and cauliflower
- Leafy greens and crunchy salads
Adding more of these mouth-healthy foods, or simply feeding them to your children after sticky foods can go a long way to keeping your child’s mouth healthy. (There’s an unexpected argument in there for serving dessert before fruits and vegetables, if you can believe it!)
To learn more about dental fillings and preventing tooth decay in children, visit Springs Pediatric Dental Care. We specialize in young patients, and know how to make them feel safe and comfortable while getting the dental care they need. Call us at (719) 265-9600 to make an appointment at our Colorado Springs dental office.