How do dentists fill cavities in toddlers? A parent’s guide.

Dental decay in toddlers is a common problem, and as a parent, it can be overwhelming to learn that your child needs dental fillings at such a young age. However, it is crucial to address these dental issues as soon as possible to prevent further damage and pain for your child. In this article, we will discuss how dentists fill cavities in toddlers and offer a guide for parents on what they should expect.

Why do toddlers get cavities?

Toddlers are susceptible to dental decay because their teeth are still developing, making them weaker and more vulnerable to damage. Toddlers are also prone to eating sugary foods and not brushing their teeth correctly, leading to plaque build-up and cavity formation. When cavities occur, they need to be filled to prevent further damage to the tooth and surrounding areas.

How do dentists diagnose cavities in toddlers?

Diagnosing cavities in toddlers can be challenging as they may not be able to communicate their discomfort or pain effectively. Dentists typically use a combination of visual examinations and digital X-rays to detect cavities in toddlers. X-rays can help dentists detect cavities in between teeth or under the surface, which are not visible to the naked eye. If your child has a cavity, their dentist will recommend filling it to prevent further damage.

What happens during a dental filling appointment?

During a dental filling appointment, your child’s dentist will first numb the area around the tooth using a local anesthetic. They will then remove the decayed area of the tooth and clean the remaining tooth structure. Next, the dentist will place a filling material, such as composite resin or dental amalgam, into the cavity to prevent further decay and restore the tooth’s structure.

Types of filling materials

There are several types of filling materials that dentists can use to fill cavities in toddlers:

  • Dental amalgam: A mixture of metals, including silver, copper, and mercury, dental amalgam fillings have been used for over 150 years due to their durability and ability to resist wear and tear. However, they are less commonly used now due to their silver color and concerns about the potential health risks associated with mercury.
  • Composite resin: Composite resin is a tooth-colored filling material that is becoming increasingly popular due to its aesthetic appeal. Although it is not as durable as amalgam, it is a suitable option for cavities in visible areas of the mouth.
  • Glass ionomer: Glass ionomer fillings are a blend of acrylic and glass, making them an ideal option for young children who have difficulty sitting still during lengthy dental procedures. They are less durable than dental amalgam or composite resin and may need to be replaced after several years.

What are the risks associated with dental fillings?

Although dental fillings are relatively safe, there are some risks associated with the procedure, including:

  • Allergic reactions: Some children may have an allergic reaction to the filling material used during the procedure.
  • Sensitivity: After the filling is placed, your child may experience tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages.
  • Infection: In rare cases, the filling may cause an infection in the tooth, leading to further complications.

How can parents help prevent cavities in toddlers?

Preventing cavities in toddlers starts with establishing a good oral hygiene routine at a young age. This includes:

  • Brushing: Brush your child’s teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing: Start flossing your child’s teeth as soon as they have two teeth that touch each other.
  • Diet: Limit sugary foods and drinks, such as candy, soda, and juice, and encourage your child to eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Regular dental visits: Take your child for regular dental check-ups and cleanings, as recommended by their dentist.


Dental fillings are a safe and effective way to treat cavities in toddlers. By establishing a good oral hygiene routine and taking your child for regular dental check-ups, you can help prevent dental decay and ensure that your child’s teeth stay strong and healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can dental fillings be done without anesthesia?
    No, it is not recommended to perform dental fillings without anesthesia as it can cause pain and discomfort for the child.
  • How long does a dental filling procedure take?
    The duration of the procedure varies depending on the size and location of the cavity, but it can take between 20 to 60 minutes.
  • How long does it take to recover after a dental filling?
    Your child’s mouth may remain numb for a few hours after the filling procedure. They may also experience some sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages, but this typically subsides within a few days.
  • Is it normal for my child’s tooth to feel different after a filling?
    Yes, it is normal for the tooth to feel slightly different after a filling. This usually subsides within a few days.


1. American Dental Association. (2021). Baby Teeth.

2. Mayo Clinic. (2021). Dental Fillings.

3. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2014). Dental Fillings: What You Need to Know.

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