Does tooth decay in baby teeth affect adult teeth?

Tooth decay in baby teeth can affect the adult teeth. If a baby tooth or primary tooth abcesses, the infection can spread to the developing permanent teeth. If the baby tooth is lost from decay, the other teeth can move into the space that was left, resulting in crowded teeth. Cavities in baby teeth should be evalutated by your dentist, who can discuss treatment options with you.
It absolutely can!!

There are a number of adult teeth that are sitting under the baby teeth. Decay and infection does not know to stop at the baby teeth.

Many people misunderstand the importance of a baby tooth. Even though it should eventually be lost, it should be taken care of until it is gone. (And sometimes, there is no adult tooth to replace the baby tooth!)
Mary J. Hayes, DDS
Pediatric Dentistry

Baby teeth set the pattern for adult teeth, including tooth decay. Decay is all about infection: tooth decay causing bacteria move to teeth as the permanent adult teeth erupt into the mouth. Many parents don't know that the first adult teeth are the 6 year molars, coming in next to, in line behind the baby teeth. For the next 6 - 8 years, to the teen age years, the child has both baby and adult teeth. Decayed baby teeth cause problems for the new set: 1 - decay itself moving onto the adult, permanent teeth (problems for cavities, pain, suffering, abscesses); 2 - early loss from decay in baby teeth caused the adult teeth to shift, to move out of line (problems for the bite, asymmetric growth).

Rita Medwid

Yes, it does. It is important to keep all 20 baby teeth until the adult teeth are ready to erupt. Baby teeth erupt usually starting at age 6-7 and ending about 11-12 years of age. So, if your child has decay, and it can be filled, or have a small crown put on, then do so. If you let the decay progress, your child will have pain, and possibly an infection. This infection is very dangerous for a young child, and will result in a traumatic dental experience. If your child needs to have an extraction of a baby tooth then it is best to have your dentist place a tooth retainer on the tooth next to the space. This will hold that space for the adult tooth to erupt into this space. This will help prevent unnecessary crowding and can help avoid braces. The baby tooth acts as a little puppet string that helps pull the adult tooth into the right spot.

If the baby tooth decay spreads to the adjacent teeth (in a mixed dentition -- both baby and permanent teeth being present), the permanent teeth will decay as well. Remember tooth decay is a bacteria caused infection and it spreads through the oral cavity. Some research indicated that the bacteria that cause tooth decay can be spread in the saliva from one person to the other.
Abraham Speiser
Yes. Even if the primary teeth do NOT become infected, untreated tooth decay in primary teeth can result in a deficiency in the amount of space available for the permanent teeth. This results in the need for braces (orthodontics) that would not have been necessary otherwise.

If a primary tooth DOES become infected, untreated tooth decay can damage the developing underlying permanent tooth in 2 ways. The developing permanent tooth could continue developing BUT be damaged leaving a brown color and/or structural defect called Turner's tooth OR the developing permanent tooth could stop developing if it also becomes infected. If that happens, the permanent tooth has to be extracted even before it erupts into the mouth.
Finally, tooth decay in primary teeth is painful for the child; physically painful hampering the child's ability to eat (nutrition) and distracting the child's ability to learn. Nutritional deficiency can affect development of the permanent teeth.

Finally, tooth decay is emotionally damaging to a child's self-image if his/her appearance is affected when tooth decay stains, blackens or cracks the front teeth. Holding back the lips during speech and smiling because of the appearance of decayed teeth upsets the muscle tone balance between the lips and the tongue which is necessary for the creation of the arch form (straight permanent teeth.)  
Yes -- in two ways. The first way is, left unchecked, decay can indeed spread to the permanent tooth forming underneath (not to mention infection and the like.) But even more important are the habits that led to the decay of baby teeth in the first place -- oftentimes, those bad habits (improper brushing, not flossing, etc) carry into adulthood. My advice to parents whose childern's baby teeth have decay is simple: work on changing the habits, because in almost all cases, that's going to be the long term answer.
Deciduous teeth or 'baby' teeth or the first set of teeth that a person gets. There are twenty of them, ten teeth per arch. They, like permanent teeth, have a pulp chamber and enamel on the outer surface and dentin on the inside, next to the pulp. They also will decay just as the permanent teeth do. The only thing different is in the size and the number. There are thirty-two teeth in both arches in the adult. Sixteen teeth in the upper arch and sixteen teeth in the lower arch.
The purpose of the primary teeth is to maintain the space for the permanent teeth to come into the mouth for the adult. If you get an interproximal cavity, or a flossing cavity which is in between the teeth, it will cause the teeth to collapse into the space created by the cavity. The same thing happens when you lose a baby tooth. Teeth tend to drift into the space if there is space to the front of the tooth. Also if there is no tooth to chew against, it will extrude up or down. The crowding created by premature tooth loss or decay will cause the permanent teeth to come in crooked or will completely block a tooth from coming in some cases. This will increase the necessity of orthodontic treatment at a later date. Proper function of mastication is contingent on straight teeth in most cases.

'Baby teeth' in most cases can also decay as permanent ones do. They can cause pain and will infect from the same causes, as permanent teeth will...PLAQUE, SUGAR, and IMPROPER ORAL HYGIENE! What is worse they also infect and cause sickness and, yes even death. This is not a scare tactic. Who would have thought in the twenty first century you could have such trouble with teeth?  This is a problem in children as well as adults. Sometimes just pulling the tooth doesn't fix the problem.

In children it is a good time to develop good habits. Remember about that partnership in health between you and your dentist that I keep preaching about. You need to brush and floss at least once a day properly. You need to see your dentist at least once every six months for a cleaning and to get your dental disease treated. Your diet needs to be low in sugar and healthy for a number of reasons: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and I could go on and on.

For years, teeth, not just baby teeth have not been given the respect that it deserves how it effects your health. These are your children. They are your responsibility, PLEASE HELP.
The misconception from parents is that active dental disease in baby teeth will impact the health of adult teeth.  In fact, the greatest risk facing adult teeth in someone that has had decay in their baby teeth is not changing the behaviors that caused decay in their baby teeth. Simply placing fillings in baby teeth will not reduce the future risk of decay in adult teeth unless the behaviors, dietary and oral hygiene, are improved.  As well, having dental sealants placed on the biting surface of adult 1st molars will greatly reduce the risk of decay in those teeth.  So it is imperative that if a child has had tooth decay in their baby teeth, that they first improve their dental hygiene, by brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and reduce the frequency of the carbohydrates (sugars) they consume.  Next it is imperative that as soon as the adult 1st molars erupt, that dental sealants are placed to reduce the risk of developing decay on those surfaces.  So to reduce the potential for harm to adult teeth in a person who has had decay in their baby teeth, one must take charge and change their personal behaviors. 
Yes tooth decay in baby teeth affects adult teeth in two ways. The developing adult or permanent tooth is growing directly under the baby tooth. If the decay is extensive the bacteria in the cavity can cause a dental abscess which can spread down to affect the developing adult tooth under it. 

If the infection does spread to the adult tooth it typically will cause the adult tooth to be malformed, stained and ugly.
The second reason we treat cavities in baby teeth is to allow the adult teeth to line up properly. The baby teeth set the foundation for the adult smile and bite. If a baby tooth is decayed it may be lost prematurely and then the grown up teeth can become impacted or delayed in eruption.

Most parents avoid treating decay in baby teeth because they are under the misconception they will only fall out or their child won't cooperate for dental treatment. For management options in treating a child visit
Yes. If decay in a primary ("baby") tooth is left untreated, it can cause damage to the developing secondary ("adult") tooth, growing "underneath" the baby tooth. It can also cause an abscess, which can be very painful for the child.
Yes, infections left untreated in baby teeth can spread to adult teeth. It is of utmost important that you help your child develop good oral hygiene habits early on that will help them maintain a healthy mouth throughout their life. This will also result in fewer visits to the dentist and less money spent. 
Tooth decay can occur as soon as the teeth appear in the baby's mouth. Parents may wonder why there is concern about baby teeth becoming decayed, since they will be replaced by permanent teeth. But there is cause for concern: decay in primary teeth may damage the hidden permanent teeth that are forming inside the gums.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.