Halloween is just around the corner, putting bright smiles on kids’ faces as they collect and consume their treats. However, all of that sugar intake can lead to tooth decay and cavities, including with primary (or baby) teeth. By the time a child is six years old (and ready to trick-or-treat in Washington), they should have their entire set of primary teeth – only to have them start falling out to be replaced by permanent teeth over the next five to six years. Because baby teeth fall out, many times adults will assume the tooth can just be removed or any decay can be ignored. However, there are several, long-term risks in doing so.
Pain, Discomfort and Eating
If you’ve had a cavity, chances are you’re familiar with the sensitivity you feel when chewing, or when you’re consuming hot or cold liquids. A child with tooth decay will have that same pain and tenderness. Given that many children are already quite sensitive about what they eat at this age, if something causes their tooth to hurt that much more, they may begin rejecting foods, potentially leading to a lifelong aversion. The types of foods that your child may have difficulty eating include plenty of healthy items, such as carrots or apples.
Your Teeth Have Deep Roots
If a baby tooth is decayed and left untreated, it can lead to an abscess. Any holes or gaps in the damaged tooth can become a breeding ground for bacteria to reach the pulp, resulting in pus and tissue swelling. Not only is this extremely painful, it can impact the developing adult tooth underneath the primary tooth. If your child’s primary tooth is discolored or painful, you may need to remove the pulp and fill it until the tooth is ready to fall out.
Early Loss, Long-Term Problems
Since baby teeth are bound to fall out, some people may incorrectly assume a decayed or painful tooth can simply be pulled. Apart from the trauma this may cause a child in the short-term, there are other, longer-term side effects. If a primary tooth falls out (or is pulled out) too early and the permanent tooth isn’t ready to erupt, other teeth may shift over and take that adult tooth’s place. When the adult tooth does arrive, it may push other teeth around, causing tilted or crooked teeth that are difficult to clean or may require orthodontics to correct. These misaligned teeth can also lead to chronic issues, like difficulty chewing or speaking and TMJ strain. To keep these complications at bay, you may want to look at obtaining a space maintainer, which acts as a placeholder until the adult tooth is ready to appear.
Self-Confidence Starts Early
While most young children are used to seeing their best friends with gaps in their teeth as they fall out, visible tooth decay or other problems are a little more uncommon. The smallest difference between children can lead to teasing or embarrassment. A child who is ashamed of their mouth’s appearance may be reluctant to smile or have lowered self-confidence; issues which can last a lifetime. Even though baby teeth will fall out, they can still be fixed with ‘adult’ treatments such as fillings or crowns, both of which can halt decay, keep the tooth in place until the adult tooth is ready to appear, and improve the quality and appearance of your child’s smile.