Tooth infections are a common dental emergency for both adults and children. Treating baby teeth is crucial because they are necessary for the child to chew properly and for proper speech development. Also, Losing baby teeth prematurely can impact the alignment of permanent teeth because baby teeth serve as placeholders for them. A baby tooth infection can be painful, and prompt treatment is necessary to alleviate the discomfort and prevent further damage.
How Does Infection Develop in a Baby Tooth?
Baby teeth are prone to infection because their enamel (outer layer of the tooth) is softer and thinner than that of adult teeth, making them more vulnerable to decay. Bacteria in the mouth decompose food particles, especially sugary foods, and drinks, and produce acid that damages the enamel, causing cavities. If left untreated, bacteria can spread to the inner layer of the tooth, known as the pulp, leading to baby tooth infection.
Baby tooth infection, also known as dental abscess, is a collection of pus that forms around the root of a tooth due to bacterial infection. Several factors can increase the risk of infection:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Consumption of sugary foods and drinks
- Low saliva production
- Deep cavities that are not treated immediately
- Injury or trauma to the mouth, which can lead to a broken or cracked tooth
How Do I Know If My Child Has a Tooth Infection?
Parents should be aware of the signs and symptoms associated with the infection of a baby tooth. Symptoms can vary depending on the severity of the infection, but some common signs include:
- The infected appears darker than the teeth around it
- Swelling and redness in the gums around an affected tooth
- Intense pain, especially when biting or chewing
- Pain or tenderness in the gum area
- Bad breath
- Pus discharge from the area
- Fever and/or irritability
If you suspect your child’s tooth is infected, be sure to contact a pediatric dentist right away. The sooner you address an infection, the better chance you have of preventing it from getting worse.
What Should I Do to Relieve My Child’s Toothache?
If your child is experiencing a toothache, it’s best to contact your pediatric dentist right away. In the meantime, rinse the affected area with warm salt water. If the face is swollen, apply a cold compress. You can also give your child acetaminophen (such as Children’s Tylenol) for pain relief. These recommendations are advised by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
Treatment Options for a Baby Tooth Infection
The treatment for a baby tooth infection will depend on its severity. Treatment can range from antibiotics to tooth extraction. To treat the infection and prevent complications, the pediatric dentist may recommend:
- Antibiotics: If the infection is severe, your pediatric dentist may prescribe antibiotics to clear the infection.
- Pulpotomy or pulpectomy: In some cases, your pediatric dentist may recommend removing the infected pulp (nerve and tissues) of the tooth and filling it with a special material. This procedure is called a pulpotomy or pulpectomy. The difference between the two is that a pulpotomy removes only part of the pulp while a pulpectomy removes all of it.
- Stainless steel crown: After the infected pulp is removed, your pediatric dentist may put a prefabricated stainless steel crown on the tooth to protect it from further damage. The crown will stay on until the permanent tooth erupts in its place.
- Tooth extraction: If the infection has caused too much damage to the tooth, or if it is not able to be saved, your pediatric dentist may decide to pull out the tooth. After extraction, a space maintainer may be recommended to prevent other teeth from drifting into the empty spot. This helps ensure that there is enough room for the adult tooth to come in properly.
Preventing Baby Tooth Infection
The best way to prevent a baby tooth infection is by brushing your child’s teeth twice a day as soon as they appear and scheduling regular dental check-ups.
To clean your child’s teeth, you can use a wet cloth or a small toothbrush for children with some water. From 18 months to 6 years old, use a soft toothbrush with a small pea-sized amount of children’s low-fluoride toothpaste.
Children who are 6 years old should use a pea-sized amount of standard fluoride toothpaste. If your area does not have fluoride in the drinking water, it is recommended to consult with your dentist to determine the appropriate toothpaste for your child.
Doing so can help prevent baby tooth decay and infection by catching any issues early on before it becomes worse. It is also important to limit sugary snacks and drinks, as sugar is a major contributor to tooth decay. Teaching your child good oral hygiene habits from a young age can help them have healthy teeth and gums well into adulthood.
If you notice any signs of a baby tooth infection, it is important to take your child to a pediatric dentist right away. Your pediatric dentist will examine the tooth and decide on the best course of action for treating the infection.
Treatment options may include antibiotics, pulpotomy, pulpectomy, or extraction depending on the severity of the infection.
Establishing good oral hygiene habits in your child early on can help protect their teeth and gums from infection. Remember to brush their teeth twice a day and have them visit the dentist once every 6 months. By following these simple steps you can help ensure your child has healthy teeth and gums.