Baby teeth are the primary teeth or milk teeth which consists of 20 teeth; i.e. 4 incisors, 2 canines and 4 molars in each jaw. These teeth shed off and are replaced by a permanent set of teeth. They guide eruption of future teeth and reserve space for the permanent teeth. So, can rotting baby teeth affect permanent teeth? What is the treatment for children with rotten teeth? Let us understand this in detail.
Can Rotting Baby Teeth Affect Permanent Teeth?
They develop through infancy and generally erupt through the gums at around 6 months of age. Primary teeth also help in speech development, help in chewing food, provide aesthetic facial appearance and thus vital in shaping the emotional well-being of the child. Many a times, it is seen that the baby teeth are rotten. It is commonly seen that parents neglect the health of primary teeth thinking that they do not last for a lifetime and will be replaced by permanent teeth. This is a misconception and it is very important to educate parents about the importance of caring for baby teeth and its influence on the future teeth.
Now coming back to the question, can rotting baby teeth affect permanent teeth? The answer is yes. Any damage to baby teeth can directly affect the position and health of the succeeding permanent teeth. Baby teeth that are destroyed by tooth decay or cavity lose their ability to guide the permanent teeth to its appropriate position in the jaw. This occurs as the space occupied by the baby teeth drastically reduces due to tooth structure loss from decay (sometimes complete loss of space due to premature exfoliation), as the result of which the adjacent teeth drives into this space and thus blocking the normal eruption path of the permanent teeth. This leads to crowded teeth, crooked teeth and malalignment of permanent teeth. This is aesthetically very unpleasing and can hamper the confidence of the child. It can also affect the child’s speech and causing eating issues. They are difficult to clean and lead to food accumulation and further decay. Correction of misaligned teeth (or straightening of teeth) is done by orthodontic treatment which is very expensive and time consuming. Thus, it is very important to ensure that proper care is provided to baby teeth to prevent damage to permanent dentition.
Sometimes decay from baby teeth can spread to permanent teeth through spread of the infectious bacteria. Uncontrolled decay in baby teeth can also lead to complex conditions such as abscess formation. If a baby teeth cannot be saved (due to accident or a disease condition), it is important to use a space maintainer to retain the space required for eruption of the permanent teeth.
What is the Treatment for Children with Rotten Teeth?
Treatment for children with rotten baby teeth depends on the extent of the decay, age of the child and presence of other medical conditions. The main aim of the treatment is to remove existing decay, arrest the spread of decay and restoring the lost tooth structure and function.
The commonest treatment modality for rotten teeth in children includes:
- Fluoride Treatment. In early detected cases, where the decay is in its initial stages and restricted only to the outer most layers of the teeth (enamel), fluoride treatment is often very helpful in reversing the condition. This treatment is done by applying fluoride varnish/gel/liquid/foam by a professional in a dental office. In some cases using fluoride toothpaste is also helpful. This is the most popular treatment for children with rotten teeth.
- Dental Fillings for Rotten Teeth in Children. This is an useful method for getting rid of caries and decay. In this treatment for children with rotten teeth, the decayed portion of the teeth is removed and the area is filled up with a tooth color filling and built up professionally to restore the form and function of the tooth. This treatment is restricted to cavities which are not very deep and has not reached the pulp.
- Pulp Capping Procedure. Cavities which are very deep and quite close to the pulp (but with no pulp exposure) may require a treatment called as pulp capping before filling. This ensures extra protection to the pulp underneath and prevents any future damage to the pulp. This too is an effective treatment for children with rotten teeth.
- Pulpotomy as a Treatment for Children with Rotten Teeth. In severe cases, where the decay reaches the pulp, pulpotomy procedure is recommended. In this process, the carious material along with the entire pulp is removed and filled with a medication. After a pulpotomy, a crown is placed to avoid any trauma to the existing tooth structure and also to restore form and function.
- Crowns. In cases where the decay is extensive with nerve damage and extensive loss of tooth structure, crown placement is recommended (often after a treatment). The crown can be tooth-colored crown or a stainless steel metallic crown.
- Extraction. In extreme cases, where the tooth is beyond repair with any treatment the rotten tooth is extracted by a dentist. Extraction of tooth leads to development of a space in the jaw which if not maintained can cause shifting of the adjacent teeth and alter the normal eruption of the succeeding permanent teeth. A space maintainer is given in such cases to ensure that the space is maintained till the underlying permanent teeth erupts and takes the space.
Teeth decay can be prevented! It is important to visit the dentist regularly for maintaining the health of the teeth. Regular visits to the dentist can also help in early detection of caries and thus reverse the process and avoid serious complications and treatments. It is important to teach the child about oral hygiene practices such as regular brushing and flossing. It is important to avoid sugary food and sticky food as they are associated with increased incidence of caries. It is also recommended to avoid putting babies to sleep with milk bottle in their mouth to avoid incidence of caries.
Now, it is clear that rotting baby teeth can affect permanent teeth and that the treatment for children with rotten teeth includes various options that are best decided by a professional dentist.