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Root Canal Guide For Children

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Root canals are well known as a treatment to save an infected adult tooth, but they are also a viable treatment option for children. This type of treatment is most often used on primary teeth, more commonly called baby teeth, that have developed damage or an infection in the pulp. The following guide can help you better understand why your child may need this treatment and how the treatment may differ for a child.

Why Save Primary Teeth?

It may seem counter-productive to save a tooth that is designed to be lost and replaced. The fact is that primary teeth provide a guide for the permanent teeth, helping them to grow into the right location. Losing a primary tooth too early can cause the remaining primary teeth, or any permanent teeth that have already grown in, to shift and block the future emerging permanent tooth.

In adults, bridges are typically used as spacers to prevent shifting when a tooth is lost. A child's mouth is still growing and the primary and permanent tooth landscape is constantly changing, which makes bridgework unfeasible. The original primary tooth provides the best spacer in this instance. In the event that the pulp inside the tooth has died or become infected, a root canal can help save the tooth so it can provide a proper spacer and guide for the permanent tooth beneath.

What Are the Symptoms of a Necessary Root Canal?

Most children will feel a throbbing pain on the side of the mouth where the infection is occurring. While numbness is sometimes associated with the death of the pulp, children generally get an infection from a cavity so they first feel the pain. Your dentist will perform an exam, including x-rays, to determine the depth of the damage. A minor cavity that hasn't yet infected the entire tooth can often be treated with drilling and filling. Major damage or death to the pulp requires a root canal.

How Is the Root Canal Performed?

Your child will usually be mildly anesthetized, although older children may only be given a local anesthetic. The decayed enamel and dentin is removed, along with the pulp inside the tooth. The dentist then fills the pulp cavity and roots with a filling material that is designed to absorb and degrade as the permanent tooth pushes the primary tooth later. This ensures that the eruption of the permanent teeth and loss of the primary tooth isn't delayed due to the root canal treatment. The tooth is then filled and capped with a crown. Your child may also be prescribed an antibiotic to prevent secondary infections.

Contact a local dentist if you think your child may need a root canal.