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Maternal and Child Health Bureau logoA Health Professionals Guide to Pediatric Oral Health Management
HomeModuleModule 1: An Introduction to Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 2: Managing Infants' and Young Children's Oral HealthModule 3: Oral Conditions and AbnormalitiesModule 4: Prevention of Oral DiseaseModule 5: Non-Nutritive Sucking HabitsModule 6: Oral InjuryModule 7: Infants and Young Children with Special Health Care NeedsContentsGlossaryEvaluationHelp
Module 3: Oral Conditions and Abnormalities
Module Contents
3.1 Recognizing Healthy Teeth, Soft Tissues, and Facial Bones
3.2 Healthy Teeth
3.3 Healthy Soft Tissues
Lips, Tongue, and
Oral Mucosa
Frena & Gingiva
Major Salivary Glands
3.4 Healthy Facial Bones
3.5 Tooth Conditions and Abnormalities
Dental Caries
Untreated Tooth Decay (current page)
Hypodontia & Anodontia
Amelogenesis Imperfecta
Dentinogenesis Imperfecta
Extrinsic and Intrinsic Enamel Coloration
3.6 Soft Tissue Conditions and Abnormalities
Epithelial Cysts
Congenital Epulis
Natal or Neonatal Teeth
Eruption Cysts
Fibroma & Papilloma
Key Points
Additional Resources

3.5 Tooth Conditions and Abnormalities, continued

Untreated Tooth Decay

Tooth decay that is not treated will progress through the enamel and into the dentin (the layer of tooth with sensory innervations). Without intervention, the disease process can proceed through the dentin and into the pulp of the tooth.

If the infection progresses to the pulp of the tooth, it will result in further sensitivity and discomfort. If the infection is controlled by early intervention, the prognosis for restoring the tooth is good. In its earliest stages the infection can be reversed. If left untreated the decay can progress out of the tooth and into the surrounding bone. It can result in the development of an intraoral or extraoral fistula (an abnormal passage leading from an abscess or hollow organ to the body surface or from one hollow organ to another and permitting passage of fluids or secretions) that allows pus to drain into the mouth.[4]

If the infection spreads to the surrounding tissues, a facial cellulitis (a spreading inflammation of subcutaneous or connective tissues) results. The site can be beneath the jaw or on the face. Approximately half of all facial cellulitis in children can be attributed to dental caries. Immediate treatment of facial cellulites is required to prevent airway blockage or systemic illness, which can lead to death. Treatment involves removal of the tooth (if the cellulitis is tooth-related), antibiotics, and possibly incision and drainage.[4]

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See our family friendly materials with important oral health information in English and Spanish for pregnant women and parents of infants and young children.



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logo: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau