Dental decay is the most common chronic disease among children in the United States. Cavities are categorized as a disease as they are caused by a specific group of bacteria. These bacteria feed on the same things we eat and drink, and the byproduct of their metabolism is acid, which burns a hole in the tooth, causing a "cavity." If left untreated, cavities may lead to pain and infection and can affect the quality of life of children and adults alike.
Early Childhood Caries (Decay)
When young children get cavities, the disease burden tends to be greater and progresses more quickly. This type of decay in young children is referred to as early childhood caries, or ECC. This disease process is different than cavities in adults, and therefore management considerations can be different, too.
Due to their young age, children with ECC present challenges distinct from adults with cavities. With such a large number of cavities at a young age, these children may best be cared for under general anesthesia. While we work to avoid general anesthesia whenever possible, there are indications where it may make the most sense.
General Anesthesia’s Role in Childhood Dental Decay
A recent study in the AAPD Journal "Pediatric Dentistry" investigated the retreatment frequency for fillings done on baby teeth under anesthesia. While nobody chooses to have their child placed under anesthesia unless absolutely necessary, the worse scenario is restoring the teeth in such a way that retreatment under a second anesthesia visit is required. This study looked at the frequency with which baby teeth fillings had to be replaced by stainless steel crowns. The results of the study supported consideration for stainless steel crowns on baby molars under anesthesia to prevent the need for subsequent re-treatment in the future.
While this study provides some insight into the predictability of different restorative treatments for young children under anesthesia, every child is different and has a unique set of risk factors to be considered. Also, each family has different values and priorities for their children. At Palos Pediatric Dentistry, PC, we work with every family to discuss treatment options and give you the freedom to choose the alternative that is the best fit for your child. We’re here to support you at every step of the way!
Contact Our Children’s Dental Office to Learn More
We welcome children of all ages and work closely with parents to determine the best treatment option. We look forward to hearing from you.