So your child had a pediatric dental exam and — gasp! — they have a cavity. It’s a little scary, we know, but don’t worry. Cavities or dental caries are actually very common in young children. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research reports that about 42% of kids aged 2 to 11 have had primary teeth cavities. So do you feel a little better? Okay, here’s what’s going to happen next.
First, your kid’s dentist will assess the cavity. How bad is it? Is it in a baby tooth or permanent tooth? How long has it been there? If the affected tooth is a baby tooth that is expected to fall out very soon, the dentist may decide to leave it alone and simply keep an eye on it. If the baby tooth is not expected to fall out soon, the dentist will consider filling or removing the tooth to prevent the cavity worsening and causing pain or even nerve damage.
Second, if a filling or removal is needed, the dentist will discuss a method of pain management with you. Filling a cavity usually needs a little bit of drilling, so a shot, nitrous oxide, or mild oral sedative are options to keep your child from having anxiety and discomfort. Childrens dental procedures often have to factor in fears like needles and loud drilling.
Third, the type of filling will be decided on, usually between amalgams and composites. Your dentist can help explain the benefits and potential drawbacks of each filling material, including whether or not they are covered by your insurance. If a removal is planned and not a filling, then your child’s dentist will discuss spacers and other options with you that will keep your child’s mouth prepared for their adult teeth.
Fourth, after all your questions are addressed and a plan is set, you’ll schedule the filling appointment. Again, we completely acknowledge childrens dental procedures can be scary for both parents and children. Leading up to the appointment, make sure you explain the basics with a kind, calm voice. No gory details are necessary, of course. You don’t want to start off the visit with excess stress.
Lastly, your child will be sent home with advice on further tooth care to prevent future cavities. Congrats, you made it through! Answer your child’s questions and help them look forward to their next (cavity-free) dentist visit.