This week, Dentistry for Children exposes the truth behind the root canal in a baby tooth.  Let’s set the scene with a brief baby-tooth-root-canal scenaro.

Root Canal might be used at any age.

Root Canal Alert: Kids remind us to brush and prevent cavities! 

Your child’s baby tooth is inflamed and infected.  A cavity went too far and now your child is in tears from pain.  When you go to the dentist, you expect he will extract it.  You reason, “Everyone knows a baby tooth will fall out anyway.”

However, to your surprise, the dentist does not want to pull the tooth.  Instead, he recommends “endodontic treatment.”

In our scenario, you’ve been to an endodontist.  By definition, “endo” mean “inside.”  “Dont” means “tooth.”  So, you know the dentist wants to treat the inside of the baby or primary tooth.   From your own dental experience, you assume this diagnosis probably means a root canal.  You are filled with dread and curious about the cost.

But, again you wonder, “How can there be a root canal?  A Baby tooth doesn’t look like it has any roots!”

The Adult Root Canal Experience

In your case scenario today, a root canal treatment is known to you as a way of saving one of your adult molars that had a deep bacterial infection.  The dentist removed the pulp in the center of your tooth, which is still helping you chew and talk eight years after the procedure.

This is the cause of your consternation:  You know your child’s primary tooth will soon come out on its own, so why “save,” it? It would only last a couple more years even if it were healthy?

Root Canal in the Primary Tooth:  The Truth in the Tooth

The pediatric dentists of the 21st century now believe that salvaging a baby tooth is almost as critical as saving a mature tooth.  There are three reasons for this belief:

Root Canal work is needed to protect the integrity of the position of permanent teeth.

Root Canal procedures save and protect even baby teeth and preserve the integrity of tooth positioning.  

1.        The premature loss of baby teeth can interfere with chewing.

2.        Loss of baby teeth before “their time” can inhibit or distort speech development.

3.        The most important reason is that the position of that infected tooth maintains
“the alignment of newly developing permanent teeth.”

4.       Here’s the truth in, under and behind each baby tooth: Each baby tooth protects the space for the permanent tooth that will surface behind it.  Likewise, remember that all teeth do not just drop out on cue at the same time.

5.       Thus, if a baby tooth vacates it place before its time, the remaining teeth will shift, push, pull and stray out of their positions to fill the gap.

6.       This destroys the alignment of the permanent teeth. Crooked and overlapping teeth that are difficult to clean and maintain will almost certainly cause extensive dentistry throughout the child’s life.

Symptoms Your Child Might Need Endodontic Treatment

Pain in the tooth is often an indicator of many different conditions.  Here at Dentistry For Children, Dr. Troy will test the tooth and assess the pain.  Many things can cause the pain that heat or cold stimulus ignites.

However, if the pain is unprovoked, constant and throbbing, damage from infection or injury probably exists in the pulp of the tooth.  X-rays will also reveal the secrets inside the tooth.

Root Canal Style Number 1:  Pulpotomy

Basic anatomy dictates that “the pulp is located in a central space within the tooth called the “pulp chamber,” and branches through passageways called “canals that extend into the tooth roots.

Root Canal stops pain in baby teeth, an option at Dentistry for Children.

A Root Canal Smile: in adult or baby teeth, pain evaporates with careful  treatment of the pulp inside a tooth. 

Provided the damage is confined only to the crown of the tooth, the doctor might do a pulpotomy.   In this procedure, the entire, inflamed pulp chamber is removed.  However, the dentist will leave the tooth root area still intact and alive.

The empty part of the tooth is filled with dental cement and a stainless steel “prince or princess hat,” known as a crown, will restore the tooth until its natural time to fall out.

Root Canal Style Number 2:  Pulpectomy

When both the crown and root parts of the tooth are infected, the dentist will perform a pulpectomy.   In a pulpectomy, the dentist removes the entire pulp material from both the crown and the roots of the tooth.  Find out all the extensive details of this procedure from the online resources of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

He also cleans and disinfects the pulp chamber and the root of the tooth and fills them with dental cement.  Like a pulpotomy, your child’s “prize” after the surgery will probably be a stainless steel crown.

It’s very important that your child knows his or her new prince or princess “hat” must be brushed and flossed like all other teeth.