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Can a Child's Tooth Erupt with a Cavity?
Pediatric Dentist Portland

Posted on 5/29/2020 by Fariba Mutschler
Image of a young boy getting his teeth worked on in Portland.

Occasionally, a child's tooth will erupt with what appears to be a cavity or loss of tooth structure on the top, or coronal, part of the tooth. This is a rare occurrence and since cavities are the result of a bacteriological process, it's essentially impossible for an unerupted tooth to develop decay. Instead, this is typically loss of dental tissue due to tooth resorption, a process in which specialized body cells break down the tooth structure, which is then reabsorbed. However, there's always a chance that your child's new tooth that seemed decayed when it erupted wasn't quite as new as you thought. Plaque can build up and decay can advance very quickly in young children with poor oral hygiene habits.

What Is Tooth Resorption?

A natural resorption process is necessary to allow for the eruption of teeth, but it should not result in loss of healthy tooth structure. In abnormal tooth resorption, developing cells in teeth break down dental tissue in an inside-to-outside, a radiating pattern similar to how a cavity develops. This degeneration can spread rapidly as bacteria flock to the 'dissolved' area of the tooth as soon as it emerges. In more scientific terms, tooth resorption results in pre-eruptive dental caries at the dentin-enamel junction (layer between enamel and the underlying dentin). This process should not be confused with enamel hypoplasia, a common developmental defect in tooth enamel.

Decay and Unerupted Teeth

The truth is that a tooth that hasn't erupted cannot develop decay since it is shielded from bacteria. When a child seems to have a cavity right when a tooth emerges, it typically means one of two things. Either the tooth structure has been dissolved due to a process known as tooth resorption, or the tooth developed decay right after emergence, which spread exponentially. For any questions or concerns about the eruption of your child's primary or permanent teeth, as well as their emergence pattern, please contact our office for a consultation at (971) 470-0054 today!
My daughter was a little nervous to have her dental work done but everyone in the office was super friendly and very reassuring and that helped her nervousness go away. Thanks for the excellent dental experience. ~ Lilyana G.

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Dr. Fariba Mutschler & Dr. Mark Mutschler have created this informative blog to help educate the community. If you like an article or the dental blog in general please use the share it button to post to Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.
Great Grins for KIDS Portland, 13908 SE Stark Street, Ste C, Portland, OR 97233-2161 ^ (971) 470-0054 ^ ^ 6/16/2024 ^ Tags: pediatric dentist Portland ^