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Are fillings in baby teeth really necessary?

This is a common question asked by parents, since these teeth are going to fall out anyway.  However, if a cavity is left untreated, it will continue to decay deeper into the tooth.  This can cause the tooth to break or the nerve to become infected, causing a painful toothache.  At that point, the tooth would need either a pulpotomy (kiddie root canal) or to be extracted.  

One function of primary dentition (or baby teeth) is to hold the space for permanent teeth.  Children do not lose their last primary teeth until around age 12.  If a primary tooth is lost too soon, the adjacent teeth can shift into the space before the permanent tooth is able to erupt.  For example, the first and second permanent molars erupt behind the primary molars around ages 6 and 12.  If the primary molars are lost too soon, these permanent molars may shift forward into the space where the permanent pre-molars need to erupt.  To prevent this, a “space maintainer” can be fabricated and cemented in place until the teeth begin to erupt.  

In conclusion, the answer is yes!  Removing decay and placing a simple filling can prevent your child from needing more invasive and expensive treatment later on.  Keeping the primary teeth in place until the permanent teeth are ready to erupt is important to help the permanent teeth erupt into the correct position.

– from Caitlin Z. (Dental Assistant)

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