You may not be particularly worried about decay on your child's baby teeth, but it's important to take good care of them. Molars, in particular, can stay in your child's mouth as long as 12 years before being replaced by permanent teeth, and any decay can weaken the tooth. Without treatment, decayed teeth can break and become infected, which can then lead to corrective procedures like adding crowns.
What Causes the Decay that Leads to Needing Crowns?
The most common cause of dental decay in younger children is "baby bottle" tooth decay, caused by giving a child milk, fruit juice or sugary drinks in a bottle or sippy cup. The sugar in the drinks can sit on the child's teeth, which encourages bacteria growth.
Some genetic issues also can cause thin tooth enamel, which is more prone to decay. And certain medications can increase your child's chances of getting caries, also known as cavities.
What Kinds of Crowns are Available?
A few different types of caps or crowns are available for children. Talk to your dentist to find out which option he or she recommends.
- Stainless Steel. The most durable and inexpensive crown option is a stainless steel cap that fits over the decayed tooth. It offers protection and keeps the tooth from rotting away, cracking or breaking before a permanent tooth can come in.
- Veneered or White-Facing Stainless Steel. This metal crown includes a white veneer to make it look more natural. Often, these are thicker and may stand out a bit from your child's other primary teeth. The white veneer can become stained or chip over time.
- Resin. These are made from a composite material that is white and looks more natural. However, they are not as strong as stainless and may not work as well in the mouth of a child.
- Ceramic. Ceramic crowns are both white and durable, but they are less likely to be used on primary teeth because of the expense.
Your insurance may pay only towards stainless steel or metal crowns, and you'll need to pay the difference if you want white or cosmetic crowns.
How are Crowns Applied?
First, your pediatric dentist will check to make sure that the pulp, or inner area, of the tooth is not exposed. If it is, and there is extensive sensitivity, a procedure similar to a root canal is done to protect the pulp. Caries and decay are removed where possible and the tooth is prepared for a cap.
Unlike with an adult crown, where the goal is to match the other teeth as closely as possible for cosmetic reasons, a child's crown can be a simple metal cap. These are trimmed to fit along the child's gumline, but they can be installed quickly and eliminate the need for temporary crowns.
The crown, once fit to the child's mouth and gumline, is cemented in place. It should last up to 5 years and will fall out when the tooth becomes loose to make way for the permanent teeth.
If you have more questions about how crowns will fit your child and which type is best, talk to a professional family dentist, like Scott Brenner, DDS.