Baby Teeth: Parents are sometimes confused concerning the treatment of baby teeth. One mother brought her six-year-old “baby girl” into the dentist’s office. Little Sally was crying with a very painful jaw tooth. When examined, she was discovered to have a decayed molar tooth. The decay was serious and the treatment recommended involved a stainless steel crown.
Mom was naturally concerned. And she asked, “Is it alright to use a stainless steel crown for my baby? Isn’t that just a temporary crown?” And, as many parents do, she also asked, “I know it’s a molar tooth, but can’t you just pull it? It’s just a baby tooth and it will fall out eventually anyway. Right?
Good Questions That Need Answers
At Dentistry for Children, we feel that these are excellent questions and ones that are common among many parents. In previous blogs, we have discussed several of these items. So, while these answers are new to some, others may consider them a review.
Stainless Steel Crowns For Baby Teeth: Cause of Confusion
Stainless steel crowns are commonly used for temporary adult crowns. They offer temporary protection until the permanent and often “tooth colored” crown can be obtained. And because of this “temporary” status, there is some confusion concerning the use of stainless steel crowns for children.
Stainless steel crowns for children’s molars are quite frequently “pre-formed” so they can be easily adjusted in the office.
This type of crown has been used with children’s molars for approximately 70 years. In fact, they are generally considered to be the most common type of crown for children’s molars.
Molars are the larger teeth that we usually think of as hidden (our back teeth.) Most parents would never consider putting a stainless steel or silver crown on a front tooth for obvious reasons. This situation is usually not a cause for concern on the larger molars.
In fact, primary molars that have extensive decay, broken, or other serious defects are the most common use for this type of crown. The stainless steel crown does cost less than other types of crowns, although the cost is more than a standard filling. But crowns are much more durable.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association reported a “6 percent better survival rate for stainless steel crowns after 3 years when compared to fillings.” This was especially true “when the crowns were placed by a pediatric dentist.” Essentially, this means lower possibilities of having to re-do the restoration.
Stainless steel crowns are considered stronger and more durable than large fillings. This makes them ideal for molars because they must withstand very strong chewing pressure.
The Smile Teeth
As mentioned earlier, stainless steel is not a good choice for front teeth. Most parents want to be sure that their child is not an object of embarrassment. And anytime the child is speaking, smiling or anytime the front teeth normally show, this possibility exists. And sometimes, children can be cruel.
For that reason, parents will normally choose a color that closely matches the natural tooth color. Unfortunately, this means more time in the dental chair and higher cost. But, the crown will allow your child to eat and speak normally and the crown should last until the baby tooth falls out.
Additional Items to Remember with a Stainless Steel Crowns
1. They are pre-formed metal caps. The advantage is that Sally has to make only one visit to the dental chair. She will appreciate that.
2. They come in different sizes that are appropriate for your child. Your dentist will select the right one.
3. Any decay will have to be removed. If it extends into the pulp of the tooth, a special procedure called a “Pulpotomy or Pulpectomy” may be required. The crown fits over the remaining portion of the tooth.
4. If your child is especially nervous about the procedure, you may need to ease their fears. Our previous blog has several suggestions about this problem.
5. Your dentist will probably suggest that the child should not eat until the anesthetic has completely worn off. This will hopefully avoid biting the cheek, lip or tongue as well as damage to the crown.
Stainless steel crowns are a long-lasting and cost-effective way to preserve a primary tooth.
Why Go To All The Expense and Trouble For Baby Teeth?
There are many people who wonder about repairs to baby teeth instead of just pulling them. Why bother? After they are just baby teeth. And the parent is partially correct. They will fall out eventually. And the permanent tooth will replace it.
And it is also true that extraction of the molar is possible. However, there are several reasons to try to save the baby teeth when possible.
Baby Teeth Perform Several Vital Functions
Baby teeth are important in numerous ways. Check out our previous blog on children’s dental development and health. And of course, there are several crucial functions that baby teeth do perform:
- They help children eat. This is probably the most obvious consideration.
- Baby teeth also are vital for the child to learn to speak properly.
- Even a smile is difficult when missing key teeth.
- They also help to keep proper spacing for the permanent teeth.
- “If some primary teeth are lost before they would come out naturally, the permanent teeth may be crowded or crooked.”
- Infection can spread and affect other teeth (including permanent ones that have not yet emerged.
Some baby teeth begin to fall out will begin to fall out as early as 5 or 6 years old. But, the last baby teeth (molars) may not be lost until little Sally reaches approximately 10-12 years old. In the meantime, a proper restoration can save your child unnecessary pain, possible misalignment, and spacing of permanent teeth. Prompt treatment can also prevent the spread of infection from an abscessed tooth. And some very severe cases can become “life-threatening.