Toddlers can be notoriously fussy, so the idea of taking one to the dentist for a filling — something most adults find unpleasant — can be the stuff of nightmares. That’s why the first thing many parents may ask is if there are any alternative methods to treating cavities or if it’s even worth it. If a filling is a necessary treatment, it is also natural to wonder how dentists fill cavities in toddlers, and what steps to take to best prepare your little one for the experience.
In this easy-to-understand overview, we share the basics of cavities and toddlers. This includes cavity prevention, treatments such as fillings, and how to help younger patients overcome any anxieties about going to the dentist. We want to help patients of any age feel confident and do everything they can to develop a healthy and happy smile.
Cavity Prevention in Toddlers
It’s important to minimize the development of cavities in toddlers. Although baby teeth fall out eventually, tooth decay that leads to cavities is still a risk. Cavities can lead to a wide range of problems, including infection, abscesses, gum disease, and the pain and discomfort they cause.
Cavity prevention steps for toddlers can include:
- Starting regular brushing and flossing as soon as baby teeth begin to come in
- Avoiding sugary snacks and drinks, especially bottles of juice or milk right before bed
- Seeing a pediatric dentist regularly to identify and address early signs of cavities
If a dentist does find a cavity or early signs of tooth decay, the earlier it can be treated, the better.
Helping Younger Patients Feel Good About Going to the Dentist
It’s normal for toddlers to feel anxious about visiting the dentist for cavity treatment. The best thing any parent can do is to keep a calm demeanor, explain what will happen, and try to make the experience as fun as possible. Tips to help your child overcome their fear include:
- Use simple and age-appropriate descriptions to help them understand what is going on
- Do some simple role-playing to help your child get used to the situation
- Make it fun and comfortable by letting them bring a favorite stuffed animal or toy
- Provide lots of positive reinforcement and rewards afterward
Talk to your dentist before any checkup or procedure for additional steps to help your child’s specific treatment.
Cavity Treatment Methods for Toddlers
If there is a cavity, the specific treatment will depend on the severity of the cavity and the extent of damage to the surrounding areas. Treatment options include:
- Early signs of tooth decay may be addressed with preventive treatments like better oral hygiene and dental sealants
- Dental fillings are common treatments for many mild to moderate cavities
- Crowns may be necessary if there is more extensive damage
- In the most severe cases, tooth extraction may be necessary to avoid the cavity damaging the pulp or surrounding gum tissue
How Pediatric Dentists Perform Fillings
If a filling is necessary, dentists will usually take the following steps when performing the procedure on younger patients, including toddlers:
- First, the dentist will apply a local anesthetic and possibly a sedative depending on the patient
- The dentist will then use a material, such as a composite resin, to fill in the cavity
- Next, the dentist will mix the filling material, carefully place it in the cavity, and allow it to dry there until it is hard
- Finally, they will gently smooth off any rough edges to finish the process
Your dentist will give you and your little one careful instructions for recovery after the filling.
Recovering from Pediatric Fillings
Anesthesia-related numbness should wear off in a few hours. During this time, children may experience some discomfort. Over-the-counter medication and an ice pack applied to the area may help younger patients deal with symptoms.
Patients are advised to avoid drinking hot or cold liquids and to eat on the side of their mouth with the new filling. Your child may experience some sensitivity to hot and cold in the first few weeks after the procedure.
If there are any questions or concerns, reach out to your dentist. It is important to continue brushing and flossing and attending all regular appointments to prevent future cavities and maintain the filling.
Keep Your Family’s Teeth Healthy with the Help of AC Pediatric Dentistry
Going to the dentist can be scary — we get it. But it should be fun! Whether it’s care for baby teeth, big kid teeth, oral surgery, or orthodontics, our team of specialized pediatric dentists make the experience memorable while teaching you how to encourage healthy habits and good hygiene for lifelong smiles. Call us today or request an appointment online. We can’t wait to meet you!