Root canal treatment is a common procedure that safely and effectively removes infection and stops tooth pain. At times, we at the Yuba City Dentistry Group will recommend root canal therapy for a young child. Naturally, the question arises: Won’t the baby tooth fall out soon enough on its own?
It’s true that primary (baby) teeth are normally lost between the ages of 6 and 12 years. But what if a tooth becomes damaged by trauma or infection? There’s a strong case to be made for trying to save baby teeth for as long as possible. Let’s see why.
What is the Role of Baby Teeth?
Primary teeth serve as guides for permanent teeth – they help permanent teeth to come in straight and in the proper position. Without the aid of primary teeth, permanent teeth may come in crooked or appear crowded. This in turn affects the child’s bite, and may result in problems that require extensive (and expensive) treatment in the future.
Additionally, just as with adult teeth, primary teeth help an individual to be able to speak and eat properly.
Why It’s Best to Save the Tooth
The soft pulp found inside the tooth is rich in blood vessels and nerves. When a child feels lingering pain or experiences sensitivity in a tooth, the pulp is likely infected. Without treatment, this infection can spread or develop into an abscess.
In extreme cases, the tooth may need to be removed. A space maintainer can be introduced to fill the gap. However, space maintainers cannot fill the full role of the tooth. They also tend to come loose and must be constantly monitored.
Thus, the following treatment options are preferred:
- Indirect pulp treatment: If pulp damage is not severe, it may be possible to remove the decay while leaving the pulp, administer an antibiotic, and seal the tooth.
- Pulpotomy: If pulp decay is limited to the upper region, the damaged section of pulp is removed, then the tooth is disinfected and sealed. You might think of this as a “partial” root canal which has a high rate of success.
- Pulpectomy: If most or all of the pulp tissue is infected, this procedure will remove it completely. Your endodontist will then clean and disinfect the canals, then fill and seal them. A crown is placed to restore the tooth visibly. A pulpectomy is much like traditional root canal treatment, with the exception that a special sealant is used that the body will dissolve. This allows the baby tooth to fall out naturally and the permanent tooth to follow its normal development.
Preparing for Treatment
As a parent, it’s natural to feel nervous for your child. However, it’s important that you don’t transfer that anxiety; a calm voice and reassuring touch do much to provide comfort. Remember, these are routine procedures that your dentist has performed numerous times. Numbing anesthesia will block any pain and will remove most discomfort from your child.
Before recommending treatment, we will examine your child thoroughly and present the best options available. We’ll walk you through the process, providing follow-up instructions and any additional support you need.
If your child is suffering from an infection, a root canal may be the best option to relieve their pain, save the tooth, and prevent the need for extensive corrective dental work in the future.