Do cavities in baby teeth need to be filled?

Treating Cavities in Baby Teeth

The costs of filling a tooth can vary. According to Hicks, it depends on how much of the tooth's surface needs to be restored, what material is used and the method employed to treat the child. The smaller the cavity, the cheaper. Fillings can be made of silver alloy, gold, porcelain or composite resin [source: WebMD].

Sedation isn't always necessary. A trick of the pedodontist trade is "tell, show and do." Explain to the child what's going to happen and why, demonstrate it and then perform it. That's enough to relieve anxiety for some kids and let the dentist do his or her job.

Nitrous oxide, or "laughing gas," is an option to help a child relax, and it's a safe one. The child is still awake during the procedure and the gas wears off quickly, but some kids get freaked out by the mask.

Those who are more anxious might require oral sedation, which will make the child sleepy. "The physical risks of an oral sedation are minimal when the proper precautions have been taken and the patient is monitored throughout the procedure," says Hicks.

General anesthesia is the final option, because it does carry risks. A child with a disability, a severe anxiety or the need for extensive, lengthy dental work might be a candidate for this type of sedation, but it should be discussed thoroughly with the dentist.

Pediatric dentists have 2 to 3 years of additional training after dental school specifically in subjects like sedation and how to deal with children with special needs, so if your insurance covers a pediatric dentist, it's a good option.

Hicks recommends finding a dentist that both you and your child trust. He advises, "Make sure you leave the appointment having learned something new about your child's oral health."

Want more information? Visit the links and resources below.

Related Articles


  • American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and American Academy of Pediatrics. "Policy on Early Childhood Caries (ECC): Classifications, Consequences, and Preventive Strategies." Rev. 2011 (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • American Dental Association. "Baby Teeth." (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • American Dental Association. "Early Childhood Tooth Decay (Baby Bottle Tooth Decay)." (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • American Dental Association. "Statement on Early Childhood Caries." (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • "Sedation Techniques." (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • James Hicks Jr., DMD, MS. E-mail interview. Aug. 26, 2011.
  • MedlinePlus. "Natal Teeth." Feb. 22, 2010 (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR). "Dental Caries (Tooth Decay) in Children (Age 2 to 11)." March 25, 2011 (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • Otto, Mary. "For Want of a Dentist." Washington Post. Feb. 28 2007 (Aug. 26, 2011)
  • ScienceDaily. "New Pathogen Connected to Severe Early Childhood Caries Identified." Feb. 28, 2011 (Aug. 26, 2011)