By Dr Tonya Kirk
Treating decay in deciduous or ‘baby teeth’ can be a challenge for dentists.
The traditional way to treat decay in a tooth is to drill out all the affected tissue and then fill the hole with some sort of filling material.
This method works well in permanent teeth, but is often not successful in treating decay in baby teeth.
Part of the reason for this is the ‘pulp’ in baby teeth (the red, squidgy tissue in the middle of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels) is closer to the surface compared to adult teeth. This means that baby teeth are more likely to be damaged by drilling, which can lead to infection. Along with this, many small children do not like having their teeth drilled, and with the procedure sometimes requiring a local anaesthetic injection, this can cause further distress.
Back in the 1990s, a dentist called Norna Hall was working in a community in the Highlands of Scotland where many of the children were suffering from decay. She was eager to find a way to treat these cavities quickly, effectively and with minimum discomfort to the child. Hall pioneered a treatment using a preformed crown made of stainless steel, and cemented them to the teeth in the hope that by sealing off the decay, it would be halted from progressing further. It seemed to work.
Clinical trials by researchers from the University of Dundee, confirmed the method was both safe and effective in treating decay in baby teeth. The “Hall Crown” technique was developed and became widely used throughout the UK and Europe.
The technique is now becoming more frequently used in Australia and worldwide.
It is certainly not the treatment for every hole in every patient in every tooth, but it is proving to be a great way to treat decay without the need for drilling or needles.