Do Cavities in Baby Teeth Really Need to Be Filled?

Cavities in baby teeth

Do Baby Teeth Need Fillings

Alpharetta, GA – You’ve just taken your child to a pediatric dentist, only to find that they have a cavity in a baby tooth. A common question we get from parents is, “Since that tooth is just going to fall out anyway, can’t you just let the cavity go instead of going through all the trouble associated with filling it?”

“As I’ve discussed in other blogs, baby teeth are extremely important and should be cared for just like the permanent teeth,” says Alpharetta Children’s dentist Dr. Nanna Ariaban. “They help your child eat and speak properly and ensure the permanent teeth are healthy and can erupt properly.”

For small cavities, there is a possibility that they can repair themselves through remineralization. If your pediatric dentist catches the cavity when it has just started, your dentist can give you tips to help better care for your child’s teeth and hopefully prevent the cavity from growing larger. This will include a proper dental-friendly diet and oral hygiene habits.

Do Baby Teeth Cavities Need to Be Filled

Next, if the pediatric dentist determines that the tooth is close to falling out, it may not be necessary to fill it. If your child seems like they won’t have their tooth for very much longer, the dentist may recommend just allowing the tooth to fall out without repairing it.

“But it’s important that parents follow the advice of a well-trained pediatric dentist, who has the unique knowledge of treating children,” says Dr. Nanna. “Our opinions are informed by years of careful study and treatment, and we know what can happen when decay is left untreated.”

Related Article: What are Cavities?

A 2014 report from the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists revealed that by age 5, nearly 60% of children in the U.S. will have experienced some level of tooth decay. The same report stated that when left untreated, this decay can lead to infection, difficulty chewing, and even malnutrition. Other studies show that children who have dental decay often experience difficulty in school due to the pain associated with the problem.

“It wasn’t that long ago that children didn’t come for their first dental visit until the late toddler or early preschool years when they had a mouthful of teeth,” says Dr. Nanna. “But, we saw the rate of childhood dental caries continue to increase, so now it is recommended that children see a pediatric dentist for the first time by the first birthday. This way, we can work with parents to develop good oral hygiene habits, help with dietary tips, and monitor the teeth so we can intervene before an issue becomes a big problem.”

But why do parents need to take the time and spend the money to fix teeth that will just fall out eventually anyway? Tooth decay is a disease, plain and simple. Specific germs cause it and can be spread easily, and it can last a lifetime. And if the baby’s teeth have serious decay, the permanent teeth can become damaged even before they erupt.

Is it Necessary to Fill Cavities in Baby Teeth

Children's cavities

When will a Cavity Not Require a Filling

Let’s talk about the different ways a pediatric dentist can help your little one alleviate the pain associated with tooth decay. Just like in adults, there are several treatment options for cavities in baby teeth, ranging from dental fillings to tooth extraction.

The main purpose of these procedures is to maintain the health of baby teeth, prevent other complications, and help the proper development of permanent teeth.

Dental Fillings:

Now, you might be wondering, do baby teeth need to be filled? The answer is yes!

Dental filling is one of the most effective treatments for small cavities. The process is simple: the dentist will begin numbing your kid’s mouth so they don’t feel any pain, and then they will remove the tooth decay. After this, they will fill the whole baby tooth with tooth-colored material.

Tooth Extraction:

This procedure is reserved for severe cases since dental professionals will try their best to save a little tooth. Remember that premature loss of baby teeth can create problems with the permanent alignment of their smiles, as well as functionality problems, such as difficulties in chewing and speaking.

Usually, pediatric dentists use local anesthetics to perform the procedure, and the recovery time might take longer due to the discomfort the child could experience.

Dental Crown:

When the damage is bigger, a dental filling might not be enough to fix the dental issue. In this case, the dentist will recommend the use of a dental crown. The procedure consists of numbing the area, removing the tooth decay, and then shaping the tooth to fit the dental crown.

We know that the most important thing for you is to ensure the health of your kid’s smile, so we recommend regular dental check-ups and proper oral care to avoid dental issues, such as cavities in a baby tooth.

Do Fillings in Baby Teeth Prevent Problems in Permanent Teeth?

There may be some considerations that getting a cavity filled or treated would be a waste of money because baby teeth aren’t even permanent teeth. Still, it’s important to understand the long-term problems that come from lack of treatment.

Primary, or baby teeth, are of a different consistency and thinner than adult teeth. Therefore, they require more attention when it comes to brushing, flossing, and oral care. Cavities can quickly progress into very large cavities and can cause the need for baby root canals and crowns. If untreated, this can form into dental infections, causing pain and swelling.

It’s also important to help children keep their baby teeth as long as possible because they help guide the development and positioning of your adult teeth. Primary teeth that must be pulled or are so infected they fall out can create orthodontic problems, which accentuate the need for braces or other orthodontic procedures. This can make your child need longer orthodontic treatment or even make children who didn’t need braces be forced to get braces to correct their smile.

Other Problems That Cavities Can Cause When Untreated

Besides the impact that baby teeth can have on the placement of permanent teeth, fillings for baby teeth are a waste of time. There are other consequences of leaving cavities untreated in baby teeth, which include:

Impede strong nutrition: Not treating cavities can cause eating to be painful and uncomfortable. Children who experience pain when eating will avoid wanting to eat, and this will start to affect their overall nutrition. Some healthy foods can naturally be hard, including apples, carrots, and celery. However, if a child is unable to eat these hard foods because of pain in the mouth, they will start to lose essential nutrients that are important for their overall health.

Affected Speech: Untreated cavities can also lead to problems with speech. Teeth are part of speaking and can affect the sounds that children can make when speaking. However, if they have cavities and have teeth rot and fall out, it can begin to cause speech impediments that will affect the child’s ability to speak properly and can have lasting effects on their confidence in public speaking and communicating with others.

Self-Confidence and Appearance: Discolored or missing teeth can lead to children developing a poor self-image of themselves. If they feel that their smile or teeth don’t look healthy or white, they may begin to refrain from smiling and wanting to show their teeth. This lack of confidence in their appearance will have a lasting effect on their belief in themselves and their social lives.

Spreading Infections Across Other Teeth: Cavities can and will spread to other teeth if untreated. It is commonly thought that cavities, unlike other diseases or infections, cannot be spread. Cavities surely can and will spread to other teeth in the mouth if untreated. Cavities can also be spread to other people! It is important to treat cavities so they don’t destroy a single tooth and set off other cavities in the mouth.

Do Fillings in Baby Teeth Prevent Problems in Permanent Teeth?

Yes, you should always be looking out for the health of your kid’s teeth, and treating a cavity on a baby’s tooth is one way to do it. This will prevent potential dental issues in permanent teeth and contribute to the proper alignment of the emerging teeth. Remember that baby teeth cavities can cause pain, discomfort, and infections, which can affect the oral hygiene habits of your child.

Furthermore, if tooth decay progresses unchecked, it may result in the premature loss of baby teeth, leading to misalignment issues due to the neighboring teeth taking up the space. As a consequence, there will be a lack of room for permanent teeth to erupt properly.

Now, let’s talk about dental sealants, a preventive measure for maintaining the health of teeth. Dental sealants refer to thin, protective coatings that can be applied to chewing surfaces of the teeth, especially the back teeth. This way, the pediatric dentist can provide extra protection to the teeth, preventing food particles and bacteria from accumulating in the spaces of teeth we often cannot reach.

Children and teenagers are most likely to develop tooth decay because they haven’t created proper oral care routines. So, they are the patients that will benefit the most from the use of dental sealants. Typically, kids should get sealants on their permanent teeth as soon as they come in. This is one of the best ways to protect the teeth from cavities in the early years of development.

Dentists recommend addressing children’s cavities, even if they are in temporary teeth, to improve the immediate oral health of the patient and also help the future well-being of their grown-up teeth. Using preventive measures like dental sealants will ensure a healthier environment for permanent teeth to emerge into.

Other Problems That Cavities Can Cause When Untreated

When cavities are not properly addressed, they can cause several oral issues, such as gum disease or infections. Regular check-ups with a pediatric dentist can help identify these dental problems early, preventing additional complications. Here are some problems that cavities can cause when untreated:

Severe and Constant Pain:

Untreated cavities can affect the nerves of the tooth, creating sensitivity to temperature changes and other factors. This can disrupt your child’s activities, such as schoolwork, affecting the quality of their life.

Gum Disease:

The bacteria causing tooth decay can spread to the gum tissue, causing inflammation, swelling, and even bleeding of the gums.

Weakened Tooth Structure:

If you don’t treat cavities, it can compromise the structure of the tooth. Weakened teeth are more likely to break and might require complicated dental work to address issues of functionality and appearance.

Tooth Infections:

In addition, cavities can produce bacterial infection in the mouth, spreading to the neighboring teeth or the bone structure. This disease can cause severe pain and sensitivity in the area. You need to treat tooth infections properly; otherwise, it can have terrible consequences, such as tooth extraction.

Extensive Dental Treatment:

You don’t want to delay treatment for cavities since it can result in more complicated and expensive dental treatments. In the first stages of tooth decay, dentists can save the teeth with a simple dental filling. If you lose that opportunity, the cavity might require a root canal or even a tooth extraction. Restoring oral health under these circumstances will require more time, effort, and money.

Negative Aesthetic Impact:

If not treated properly, tooth decay can impact the appearance of your kid’s smile. Cavities cause deterioration of the teeth, which include changing the natural color of the affected tooth or potential tooth loss.

How Do I Spot When My Child Requires Dental Fillings for Cavities?

It’s always harder to spot cavities early when it’s not your mouth. However, if your child is complaining about sensitivity or pain in their mouth, it may be caused by the formation of a cavity. If your child complains about sensitivity or pain when they eat foods that are cold or hard, it can signal cavities.

The Mayo Clinic lists the following signs of cavity formations:

  • Toothache, spontaneous pain, or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Tooth Sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot, or cold
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  • Brown, black, or white staining on any surface of a tooth
  • Pain when you bite down

Do Cavities in Baby Teeth Need to Be Filled

You will want to check the tooth to see if there is plaque buildup or any discoloring. If so, then it would be good to schedule an appointment for a cleaning and check-up so that the dentist can treat it earlier.

If your child is visiting a pediatric dentist every 6 months, then the dental staff should be able to catch any formations of cavities and stop any further growth.

The best advice for those who are worried about cavities forming is to double down on strong oral habits. Make sure your children are brushing and flossing regularly. Monitor their diet and see if any areas may have changed. For example, some kids can be receiving treats at school or from a friendly neighbor that can be full of sugar.

What Are My Options if My Child Has Cavities?

What Are My Options if My Child Has Cavities?

If your child has developed cavities, several different options can be taken. Common options include:


As we mentioned above, if the cavity is small enough, the pediatric dentist may elect to allow the tooth to repair itself. This occurs because saliva can speed up healing processes. Saliva contains proteins, enzymes, and compounds that help harden tooth enamel and can even “remineralize” your tooth’s enamel. If a cavity is small enough, a tooth can go through remineralization (or self-repair) if oral hygiene and diet promote the saliva. If the diet is poor and filled with sugar and starch, it can and will overpower the saliva, causing the cavity to grow larger. Your pediatric dentist in Alpharetta will discuss proper care and a course of action if they feel remineralization is possible.

White Fillings and Restoration:

If remineralization is not a viable option, a filling will need to be placed on the teeth. This process is commonly known to both adults and children. Your Alpharetta pediatric dentist will drill away at the cavity and decay. Once everything has been taken away, the tooth will be filled with a filling. At Polkadot, we use white fillings, which harden in seconds and mimic the color and appearance of natural teeth. For those who are worried, Dr. Nanna will walk through the procedure with the child, reviewing each tool they will use.


If the tooth decay or cavity is large, a filling will not be able to do the job of restoring the tooth. A crown will create a protective structure around the afflicted tooth and will minimize the risk of developing a new cavity or further tooth decay on the tooth. To place a crown on a tooth, the tooth is shaved down, and then the prefabricated crown is fitted on the tooth, and then it is cemented on the tooth using dental cement. It’s important to make sure to use the right size for the crown, as it will affect the child’s bite if the crown is too large or small.

Extractions or Baby Root Canals:

Once a cavity is so large that it starts to reach the nerve of a tooth, it will cause intense pain. The cavity can cause an infection and nerve inflammation; when this occurs, the only option is to conduct a baby root canal. This involves the removal of the infected pulp (nerve and blood vessels). After removal, medication will be placed on top of the affected area. Unlike adult root canals, baby root canals are much different; they take only a few minutes to complete, and additional visits are unnecessary!

Laughing Gas or Nitrous Oxide:

Depending on the number of procedures or the comfort level of the child, laughing gas or nitrous oxide can be used. It is a safe sedative and extremely effective in helping children reduce anxiety. The laughing gas creates feelings of happiness and relaxation and has a rapid onset while non-allergic. The laughing gas is given by placing a fitted mask over the nose. Once the patient starts breathing through the mask, they will begin to feel the nitrous oxide. Laughing gas has no lingering effects and is perfectly safe. The use of this option will be at the recommendation of your pediatric dentist in Alpharetta, GA.

Sedation Dentistry:

In some extreme cases, the number or severity of dental treatments may be high. When it comes to dentistry for children, we have to balance the effectiveness of the procedure but also their overall comfort with dentists. Children can sometimes need extensive work, but the stress and discomfort of all the work create an anxious relationship where getting them to the dentist can be extremely difficult. Sedation dentistry is used to help balance the need for dental treatment while also ensuring a healthy relationship with the pediatric dentist on a long-term basis.

Help From a Roswell Pediatric Dentist

As stated above, tooth decay or cavities during childhood is a prevalent disease that significantly impacts a child’s life. ECC (early childhood cavities) is a chronic pediatric disease that, in today’s world, is more common than asthma, early childhood obesity, and even childhood diabetes.

Childhood cavities can begin at any time in your child’s life, even when the first teeth emerge at around six months, so we have to keep in mind that when this happens, it will significantly affect your child’s early years.

There are many treatments available to prevent cavities in our children. Here, we will find three essential preventive dental treatments for kids.

Dental Fluoride Treatments

We have all heard of the great benefits of fluoride toothpaste and how important it is to protect our children’s teeth. But even daily fluoride-only use might not protect our children from losing their enamel coatings.

For this reason, Dental fluoride treatments in kids are a must, and several studies demonstrate professional dental fluoride treatments’ have a crucial role in preventing cavities. The earlier that fluoride treatments start, the better in maintaining the child’s teeth healthy.

Fluoride treatments are essential to help strengthen the child’s teeth enamel and prevent early childhood cavities. Our staff always welcomes the opportunity to review concerns about our Dental Fluoride Treatments.

Dental Sealants

As carefully detailed, cavities are the accumulation of plaque that begins rotting the tooth. Sugary foods, drinks, and starch contribute to plaque buildup, leading to cavities and infections.

Dental sealants applied by the dentist are an exceptionally effective tool to aid a child in their fight against cavities and protect their teeth. Sealants consist of thin protective coatings used in the difficult-to-reach corners and indentations of your child’s back molars.

This treatment ensures a wholesome and better solution for your kid’s oral health. Dental Sealants are quick, pain-free, and can last up to 2–4 years.

Regular Professional Exams and Cleanings

As much as we would like to think that our baby or child does not need regular dental exams and cleanings as they are too young and have only a few teeth, the reality is that scheduling professional exams and cleanings with a dentist is one of the most essential and preventive measures we can take to ensure the optimum oral health of our child.

Regular dental exams and cleanings are critical recommendations by the ADA (American Dental Association), especially during the first year when the baby’s teeth erupt. These appointments help prevent and recognize possible issues in your future child’s oral health. Contact us if you would like to learn more about preventive dental treatments for your child or to schedule their first exam.

Help From a Roswell Pediatric Dentist

Pediatric dentists offer several effective treatments to prevent dental decay while also improving the oral health of little patients. On this occasion, we would like to talk about two essential treatments: dental sealants and fluoride applications. Let’s explore this further:

Dental Sealants:

As we explained before, dental sealants are a great and simple approach to combating cavities. Imaging sealants as a barrier that keeps food particles and bacteria from settling into the spaces we cannot reach when we brush and floss our teeth. The back teeth are especially hard to reach, which is why those are the teeth that benefit the most when we apply sealants. When pediatric dentists seal these difficult areas, they help reduce the risk of decay in permanent teeth.

Flouride Applications:

You might have heard of fluoride. This is a mineral that is essential to strengthen tooth enamel, and pediatric dentists can administer it as a preventive measure. Fluoride can remineralize areas of the tooth that are vulnerable, making it more resistant to acid and bacteria in the mouth. Dentists recommend this treatment for kids who are not receiving enough fluoride exposure through their oral care products.

You do not have to wait for your kid to develop dental issues since there are many preventive measures to prevent tooth decay and improve oral health in children. For instance, dental sealants work like a protective barrier that prevents the accumulation of bacteria on tooth surfaces. On the other hand, fluoride applications strengthen tooth enamel, making teeth more resistant to cavities. We recommend that you work together with pediatric dentists to ensure that your kid has the beautiful and healthy smile they deserve!

How Food and Drinks Can Result in Cavities

Eating healthy is vital to promote our children’s oral health. As parents, we want to avoid any early signs of tooth decay and cavities.

But sometimes, we are unaware of how tooth decay starts. The process is simple; we all have bacteria in our mouths after eating. When these bacteria come in contact with sugars and starch, an acidic reaction is produced. This acidity can dissolve and erode the enamel on the teeth, and tooth decay starts.

A preventive approach is always the best medicine to promote strong teeth in our children, and proper nutrition is vital for long-term dental health. So try to be consistent, choose wisely, and consume healthy foods as much as possible.

What Are Good Options for My Kids?

  • Add food high in antioxidants and other nutrients to our children’s diet to improve immunity. All kinds of berries are always hot with kids; they are delicious, low in sugars, and will help them build a robust immune system.
  • Crunchy, raw fruits and vegetables (such as celery, apples, and carrots) will naturally help remove bacteria and clean their teeth. High water-content foods such as melons, pears, and cucumbers also aid in their fight against tooth decay.
  • Protein and incredibly lean meats (chicken, turkey, and fish) will strengthen their enamel and are a good energy source.
  • To give them enough calcium and build strong teeth, go for low-fat dairy products (skim milk, cheese, and yogurt).

What Are Some Things My Kids Should Avoid?

As some foods are good for our teeth, others make our child’s teeth more vulnerable and prone to cavities, and their intake should be controlled as much as possible.

  • The major infractions come from sugary foods and sugary drinks. All sweetened juices, sodas, and beverages contain large amounts of sugar that are not good for your teeth and overall health. Always choose water instead, or try to make it a habit to give children water rather than sweetened beverages.
  • Chewy or sticky foods such as candies, caramel, and chewy granola bars will firmly adhere to their teeth and cause significant decay.
  • Desserts, especially sugary ones such as ice cream, cakes, cookies, and all sugary sweetened treats, should be eaten in moderation.
  • Avoid acidic foods as well. Citrus fruits contain acid that can deteriorate the teeth’ enamel when consumed regularly. Consuming acidic foods and drinks with other foods as part of a meal will minimize the acid and protect the teeth.

When we strengthen our child’s abilities to fight bacteria, we are helping them to protect their teeth and gums. And we should never forget that teaching our children to make wise, healthy, and nutritional food choices for their benefit is essential.

Any healthy diet will help us and our children better oral health and win the fight against cavities. As pediatric dentists, we are responsible and conscious about offering Nutritional Counseling for our patients and their parents. We are here for you and our children.

© 2018 Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry in Alpharetta and Johns Creek, GA, is credited as the sole source.

Get in Touch With a Pediatric Dentist in Johns Creek

Your child deserves the best oral care, and our team of dedicated dentists is here to make that possible. They will help you address all kinds of concerns, from a 4-year-old cavity to straightening your teenager’s teeth. There is no doubt we provide excellent care and guidance that ensures the best dental experience for young patients.

At Polkadot Pediatric Dentistry, we understand the unique needs of young patients while creating a friendly and fun environment that makes them comfortable. Setting up an appointment is easy! Whether your child needs a routine check-up or specific dental care, we are here to provide personalized and attentive treatment.

You have the opportunity to help your child start their dental journey, and they will be grateful to achieve the smile of their dreams!