Those nasty sugar bugs! Often due to an excess of sugary drinks and treats or a lack of good brushing and healthy flossing, bacteria can make its home on your kid’s teeth and cause cavities. Cavities are the holes created when bacteria eats away the enamel or the outside of the tooth.

Untreated cavities can eat away at your kid’s teeth causing them to break or become infected. Even cavities in primary teeth (or baby teeth) need to be treated to protect your child’s overall oral health. Read more about cavities in kids in our blog here.

The most common way to treat cavities is to get a “filling” where the tooth decay is removed and the tooth is filled and sealed to protect against any further damage.

Are fillings necessary for kids?

Yes! Ignoring cavities can cause bigger problems down the road. Not only can the infection spread to other parts of the tooth or mouth but it can also become very painful for your child. If the damage becomes too great, there’s a chance of losing the tooth entirely.

Just because a permanent tooth is on the way does not mean that pulling a baby tooth is a great option. All of our teeth support the ones next to each other. When a tooth’s neighbor is not there, it’s weaker and more susceptible to getting cavities itself. If at all possible, we don’t want to pull teeth too soon.

If a tooth is badly damaged and does need to be extracted, Dr. Kimberly will add a space maintainer so the permanent tooth will have its own place to live and not be crowded when it comes in.

tooth space maintainer

What kind of fillings are used for kids?

Back to tooth fillings…there are various kinds of filling materials that Dr. Kimberly can use to restore a child’s smile.

An easy and more traditional filling material is a silver amalgam which is a mix of metals. Amalgam fillings are the most cost effective but tend to be less favorable than the more natural looking tooth-colored fillings.

More commonly used is a composite resin filling that more closely matches the natural tooth color. When cavities are small Dr. Kimberly primarily uses this type of white filling. A composite filling must stay super dry in order to set appropriately, so child-cooperation is needed. Once the filling has set, the tooth is sealed to help prevent cavities from forming in the future.

Another type of white filling is glass ionomer. Glass ionomer is less durable than composite but offers the feature of continual fluoride protection for the tooth.

If the cavity is too large to fix with a filling, Dr. Kimberly will use a crown to cover and restore the tooth. In the back of the mouth, crowns for baby teeth may be silver. In the front, crowns will be white to match the other teeth.

natural filling

What age can a child get a filling?

Cavities can happen at any age. This is why it’s important to establish healthy habits of brushing and flossing as soon as your child’s teeth start coming in. Palmetto Kids Dentistry offers free screenings for kids under two because we want your kids to feel comfortable coming to the dentist at an early age. Building proper oral hygiene habits while kiddos are young will lead to a lifetime of healthy teeth and gums!

Even babies can get cavities if sugary food or drink (yes, milk too!) is allowed to sit on the teeth for an extended period. For those too young to sit through a filling treatment, sedation will be used to fix and protect the teeth.

Mom helps to brush the teeth of a happy baby

What is the process of getting a cavity filled?

At Palmetto Kids Dentistry, we have a few ways to complete a filling. Have you seen our new laser?

Dr. Kimberly has received great response with the new laser in the office. She recently laser-filled a cavity for a two-year-old who sat like a champ! The laser makes the process of getting a cavity filling painless and super easy.

She’ll show you the x-rays and where the cavities are and whether your child is a good candidate for getting a “laser filling”. She’ll explain the process to you and your kiddo and answer any questions you both may have. Parents are always allowed to come in the room during the filling process along with any stuffed animal companions needed for comfort.

First, your child can select what they’d like to watch on Disney+ or Netflix. We’ll give them special sunglasses to wear and start the sweet smelling happy gas (laughing gas or nitrous oxide) to help them relax. The whole process is explained in kid-friendly language so they know what to expect and can stay calm the whole time.

The benefits of using the laser for cavity fillings is there’s no pain and no need to wait for any numbness to wear off. All laughing gas will be out of their system before they leave the office and they’ll be ready to get back to their day!

For larger cavities that require a crown, Dr. Kimberly uses numbing gel and then administers local anesthetic. We don’t say the “s” word in front of the kids – no “shots” here, simply a “mosquito bite” to put the sugar bugs to sleep so we can catch them! 😉

In this process, there will be some numbness to wear off throughout the day, and we recommend sticking to liquids and soft foods for a couple of hours. If discomfort lasts through the day, a mild pain reliever can be taken.

On the rare occasion sedation is needed, we will schedule an appointment with one of our anesthesiologists. This is typically only needed for kid’s needing multiple fillings at one time or those unable to sit through a filling comfortably.

If you have questions about the best filling option for your child? Give us a call.

laser dental filling

How do I prepare my child for a cavity filling?

Kids’ most common question is, “Will it hurt?”

The answer: No.

The only difference is the “toothbrush” Dr. Kimberly uses to clean and fix teeth, sprays water and may tickle a bit.

Dr. Kimberly takes the time to walk children through the process and lets them know what will happen before it happens so there’s nothing to worry about. You can reassure them as well that the whole process will be pain free and there’s a prize to take home after. We have post-op popsicles if parent-approved and a toy chest that kids can pick from following their appointment.

Getting a filling can be stress-free

Have you noticed dark spots on your child’s teeth or are they complaining of pain in their mouth? Make an appointment with Dr. Kimberly today so she can examine and remove any damage and restore their smile to its precious cuteness. Palmetto Kids Dentistry offers a kid-centered and friendly environment to take care of any sugar bugs.

Don’t forget to brush and floss twice a day for two minutes and visit us every six months for your regular dental checkup!!

Mom teaching daughter to floss her teeth