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They Say: Don't Bother Filling Baby Teeth

This just in from a group of British researchers: decaying baby teeth may not be worth filling. Finally, a group of experts who supports the “Why bother, they’re just going to fall out anyway” defense. babyteeth

But seriously, folks … as reported in this BBC News piece, researchers at Manchester University recently collected data from 50 dentists and found that they take vastly different approaches to handling cavity-ridden baby teeth. Some fill them, some extract them and some do nothing at all. Regardless of the course of action, the presence of decaying baby teeth did not necessarily appear to lead to problematic adult teeth. For obvious reasons, then, most parents may prefer to avoid filling or pulling their children’s baby teeth unless the kids are experiencing extreme pain and discomfort because of them.

Which relates back to the “Why bother, they’re just going to fall out anyway” approach, one that not only makes sense from a practical perspective, but from an economical one, too. Why pay for all those procedures when the Tooth Fairy’s just going to collect those suckers in a few days/weeks/months/years? But hold the phone for  a second…

This item on iVillage addresses the same issue and points out that problems in our teeth — even the itty bitty baby kind — can lead to infections and other problems with physical and mental development. A fair point. But, as the BBC notes, being too overzealous with dental procedures at a young age can cause unnecessary trauma in some children. Their piece notes the sad story of Sophie Wall, a British girl who starved to death at age 8 after refusing to open her mouth ever again in the wake of having eight of her teeth removed.

It seems to me that what’s required here is good judgment on the part of both the parents and the pediatric dentist. Undoubtedly, there are situations where a filling or baby tooth-pulling may be necessary, but it’s important to weigh all the options and the severity of the situation before taking any action. Too many adults are afraid to go to the dentist, and I think it’s almost as important to avoid that fear as it is to make sure our children maintain healthy teeth. Ideally, of course, we should aim to keep those mini-incisors in good shape, which would make the idea of filling baby teeth moot from minute one.

For the record, it appears that’s a pretty serious problem in the United Kingdom. That BBC story also reports that 40 percent of five-year-olds in the UK suffer from tooth decay. The most recent data I located for the U.S.  stated that tooth decay in American children between the ages of 2 and 5 had risen to about 28 percent by the year 2004. Not a great percentage, but pretty favorable when compared to the Brits.

Then again, the Brits, God bless them, aren’t exactly known for their dental hygiene. So perhaps we should mind the results of this latest study, but also take them with a grain of baking soda, which, by the way, does wonders for the ‘ol choppers.

Image: BBC.com

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