Behind every baby tooth is an adult tooth waiting for the right moment to come through. This process of replacement begins when a child is around six years old. The central incisors go first, followed shortly by the lateral incisors. If all goes well, the baby teeth fall out and the adult teeth come through the gum to take their place. But what happens when decay is involved.
Unfortunately, tooth decay in a baby tooth can affect the adult tooth that is still in the jawbone. As a parent, it's important to understand how this might happen.
Decay Can Spread to Adjacent Adult Teeth
Adult teeth come through to replace baby teeth from about six years old to twelve years old. This means that your child's mouth will have both baby teeth and adult teeth for five to six years. Because of this, tooth decay can spread from a baby tooth to an adjacent adult tooth. The decay itself doesn't spread. However, the bacteria that cause the decay do spread.
Thus, if you spot decay in a baby tooth and that tooth sits next to an adult tooth, take your child to a children's dentistry. The dentist can treat the decay and advise you on how to avoid further decay before any further damage occurs.
Decay Can Spread to the yet to Erupt Adult Tooth
Even if you can't see the adult teeth, that doesn't mean that decay cannot affect them. However, for the decay to reach them, the decay in the baby tooth needs to be quite severe. If a baby tooth is so decayed that the bacteria causing the decay can reach the adult tooth in the jawbone, then that tooth will suffer complications as a result.
The infection could affect the adult tooth's development, causing structural defects that leave the tooth deformed. Or, the infection could cause the adult tooth to become discoloured, turning it brown or yellow. In severe cases, the adult tooth may even stop developing completely. In this case, your family dentist will need to extract the adult tooth.
Treat Decay Quickly
Your child's baby teeth are so much more than chewing devices. They also act as placeholders that save the space for the adult teeth to come into. Hence, if they are lost too quickly, the adult tooth may erupt in the wrong position, of the other teeth could move into the space, leaving your child's jawbone crowded and crooked.
Don't worry. If you think your child's tooth is too badly decayed to save, your dentist can put a space retainer on an adjacent tooth to save the space for the incoming adult tooth.