Theriot Family Dental

Why Fill A Baby Tooth That Is Just Going to Fall Out?

Posted by writeradmin

I have a five-year-old son who loves sweets as much as I do. At his last visit, they found a few cavities on some of the back teeth. The dentist wants to fill them. I was wondering why that is necessary. If he’s going to start getting his six-year molars soon, why do these teeth need fillings at all if the teeth are just going to fall out anyway? It seems like a lot of expense and discomfort for such a temporary situation.


Dear Monica,

boy with toothbrush

Others have wondered the same thing. I’m glad you are asking instead of just ignoring your pediatric dentist’s recommendation. Deciduous, or baby teeth, are your son’s main dentition throughout his childhood. Baby teeth generally first start appearing around 5-7 months of age, and by age three all twenty should be in place: ten upper and ten lower. It can be a bear helping the little ones through teething, with frequent pain, crying, loss of appetite, and impaired sleep. Thankfully those days are past you, unless you have other little ones at home.

When Will They Fall Out?

Baby teeth begin loosening and falling out around approximately six or seven years of age, though this is occasionally delayed in some individuals. By age 21, most people have all of their permanent teeth in place.

In infancy, we advise gently cleansing the teeth with a small, very soft toothbrush, which both removes harmful plaque and helps the child become accustomed to the practice of brushing, cementing it as a habit. As they become more independent, proper brushing and flossing can be taught, though generally still with a parent’s help.

Despite this care, deciduous teeth still develop decay at times, especially in the presence of sugar. It is still advised to remove any active decay and place fillings in the affected teeth. At five, your son is still around 1-2 years away from losing those molars, maybe even more. If the fillings are not placed, the decay will advance to the pulp, or nerve, of the tooth. This leads to a painful dental infection, and requires much more extensive treatment, such as a pulpotomy, as compared to a simple filling. The last thing you want is to have to make an emergency dental visit while your son is crying in pain.

Can’t We Just Pull It?

Some wonder why not simply pull the baby tooth and let it heal over. This is not advised, as one of the purposes of each baby tooth is to hold the position for the advancement of the permanent tooth when it’s time. If removed too early, the neighboring teeth will shift, causing impaired eruption of the permanent teeth due to inadequate room. These back teeth actually need to keep the place for his twelve-year-old molars. If you extract them, other teeth will move and shift into its place. This leads to crowding of the teeth when his permanent molars come in. With crowding, comes braces. That is an expense you want to avoid if at all possible.

If the decay is too far gone and the tooth cannot be saved, it will be important you have a space maintainer placed there to hold the space for his later teeth. This is yet another expense that can be avoided if you go ahead and get this filled.

To summarize, it’s best to go ahead with the fillings for your son, especially those back teeth, keeping the baby teeth in their proper place until they loosen and fall out on their own, making way for a healthy permanent smile. Thank you for asking and being an informed mom!

This blog is brought to you by Lafayette, LA Dentist Dr. John Theriot.