Definition and Overview
Children develop their milk or baby teeth between the ages of 6 months to three years old. Between that time and the time that they each fall out to be replaced by permanent teeth, a child may experience dental problems before the permanent teeth are ready to erupt. These problems include tooth decay that can lead to tooth loss or broken tooth and the development of severe infection or abscess.
One of the common dental treatments to protect baby teeth is milk tooth filling. It may be surprising to consider the need for this procedure since baby teeth will eventually fall out anyway. However, there are several reasons why this treatment is important.
First, milk teeth serve as the guide or placeholder for the permanent teeth. When a baby tooth is removed or lost before the permanent tooth is ready to come out, the adjacent teeth may move into the space occupied by the lost tooth. What this means is that the permanent tooth, when it’s supposed to come out, won’t be able to because another tooth is blocking its way.
Second, milk teeth play a big role in the correct development of speech patterns. Milk teeth that have been damaged by tooth decay can cause problems like lisps or whistling especially when the damage affects the front teeth.
Third, milk teeth are obviously needed for chewing food and are thus crucial for children to receive proper nutrition.
Knowing the reasons why a milk tooth filling is important may guide parents into accepting this treatment instead of just deciding to remove the tooth before it’s ready to fall out or before the permanent tooth is ready to come out.
Who Should Undergo and Expected Results
There is a big gap between the time all the baby teeth come out and when they all start to fall out. These start to come out as early as six months up to three years and start to fall out when the child is about five years old. The last baby teeth, the molars, fall out at around 13 years old. So milk tooth filling may be required by children anywhere between 1 and 13 years old. During this time, there are many dental problems that a child may encounter to necessitate such dental treatment.
Children who have tooth decay need a milk tooth filling. Tooth decay is usually the result when children regularly eat sugary and junk food.
Toddlers and young children are not the only ones with milk teeth but also younger teens who still have their molars till they’re around 12 or 13. These molars are more susceptible to tooth decay because they’re the ones mostly used for chewing food and are the last ones to fall out. Milk tooth filling also applies to these teeth.
How Does the Procedure Work
Tooth decay is typically discovered by parents who closely monitor their children’s teeth or a dentist during a regular check-up. Once tooth decay has been confirmed, a milk tooth treatment should be considered.
At a dental office, a paediatric dentist will do a quick inspection of the teeth and take note of any teeth that needs filling. Prior to the procedure, the dentist may elect to use a local anaesthetic, depending on the severity of the tooth decay. He may also apply a numbing gel on the gums before injecting the anaesthetic.
Once the anaesthetic starts working, the dentist will proceed by removing the decay in the tooth. A drill and a scraping tool will be used while a nurse removes the water and debris build-up in the mouth using a suction tool. When the tooth is clean, the dentist will proceed by putting the milk tooth filling in the hole. It can be silver or a tooth-colored filling.
To make sure that the filling is not too thick, the dentist will ask the child to bite and assess if it feels normal. If all is well, a final rinse is the last step and then the procedure is over.
Possible Complications and Risks
A complication may arise, not from the procedure, but from a child’s anxiety about the dental visit. An anxious child can become difficult to handle and may cause injury to himself if the procedure is to push through. To prevent the toddler or the child from becoming anxious about the procedure, parents are advised to drop by the dentist’s clinic early to give the child time to acclimate himself to the environment.
- American Dental Association: "Dental Filling Options."