If the dentist has recommended a root canal for your child, you may be wondering why. Why go through the trouble to save a tooth that is just going to fall out? Well, it’s important to preserve primary teeth until the adult teeth erupt. If the primary tooth is lost prematurely, the adult teeth may emerge in the crooked, or in the wrong position. Furthermore, losing a baby tooth too soon can impact your child’s chewing and speech development.
Temporary baby teeth and permanent adult teeth have enamel. This is a protective coating on the outside of the teeth. It is also the hardest substance in the human body. Inside the tooth is something called pulp. It is located in the pulp chamber and branches through the tooth roots in passages called canals.
The pulp is full of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. It is vital to the growth of all teeth. Pulp can become damaged from decay or traumatic injuries. Since it is full of nerves, pulp damage usually results in pain and discomfort. Therefore, a root canal is performed to alleviate the pain.
Pulp damage can cause pain, sensitivity to heat/cold/sweets, painful chewing. It can also cause a constant throbbing pain. This normally indicates extensive damage to the pulp. Since infection can travel through the root tip and into surrounding jawbone, it can form an abscess and cause secondary pain. Digital X-rays will be needed to visualize this. Your dentist will perform an exam and review your child’s medical history before diagnosing.
Pediatric dentists are qualified to perform root canals on children. It is usually an in-office procedure performed under local anesthesia. After the area is numb, the dentist places a “dam” around the tooth. This isolates it from the rest of teeth and prevents contamination. Next, a miniature drill is used to create a hole in the tooth, giving the dentist access to the pulp. Then, the dentist uses small tools to remove the diseased pulp tissue and disinfects the root canals and pulp chamber with antiseptic and antibacterial solution. After that, the clean, empty space is filled with gutta-percha. This is a natural, rubber like material. Finally, the hole is sealed up.
Typically, a crown or other restoration is applied to further protect against decay. This filling material is biocompatible, meaning it can be absorbed by the body. Likewise, the roots of baby teeth are absorbed by the body to make way for the adult teeth to emerge.
As with most other medical problems, the ideal approach is to prevent pulp damage from occurring. This can be done by keeping your child’s teeth health with proper oral hygiene and routine dental visits. However, if your child is diagnosed with pulp damage, we can save the tooth. Furthermore, this will protect the future of your child’s oral health and save their beautiful smile.