Should one year-old have cavity filled?

My breastfed baby girl is one year old and has 8 teeth. When she was 8 months old, one of her front teeth came in with a mark on it (brownish yellow). I took her to the dentist, and she told me that it is a cavity and that I should bring her back in 6 months to have the tooth checked, but it will probably need to be filled. Is it safe for a one year old to get a cavity filled? How is this usually done? Why did the tooth come in with a cavity on it?

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It is quite safe for a one year old to have a cavity filled, unless there is some medical condition which might interfere with treatment. In fact, if the cavity is small and shallow enough, your daughter may not even need local anesthetic for the procedure. This would be one of many advantages of treating the decay early.

The cause of this type of cavity is not always known. Occasionally, teeth erupt with discolorations, small areas of decay, enamel or dentin defects, or other conditions. Some of these problems are caused by illness or medication taken during tooth development, some are caused by systemic conditions, and some causes are simply unknown. It is possible that during the development of this tooth, the enamel failed to close completely, making the tooth more susceptible to decay. Your conscientiousness regarding oral hygiene and feeding is commendable. Parents should not send a child to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, as this practice often results in tooth decay.

Since it is a front tooth which has the cavity, a plastic tooth-colored filling material (called composite) will probably be used. First, the decay must be removed from the tooth. The filling process involves cleaning the area to be filled, placing a bonding agent, and then the composite, which is usually hardened with a special light. The filling is then smoothed and polished. Since composite is available in many different shades, it is usually possible to choose a shade that matches the tooth color. This provides the best esthetic results and also provides a level of protection from future decay.

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