Baby Root Canals: When and Why?

Baby Root Canals. Seriously? Yes, Seriously, It Just Might Save A Tooth and Prevent Future Dental Problems

Wow… Root Canal… seems aggressive for baby teeth.

Although it may sound like aggressive treatment, dentists recommend root canals on baby teeth when the cavity is close to the nerve. These cavities are the ones that are painful as the nerve becomes irritated. Sometimes, in very large cavities, removing all the decay leads to a nerve exposure. When these things happen, the dentist must treat the nerve because a filling or crown will not heal the damaged nerve. In fact, without treating the nerve, the filling or crown may actually cause the tooth to become more painful and lead to an abscess. This nerve treatment is called a pulpotomy, which is a baby root canal.  Because premature loss or extraction of a baby tooth can lead to space loss and future issues, we attempt to restore teeth and get them back to being pain free. This is assuming that the tooth is still savable with a baby root canal.

Mouth Therapy

So, what does a baby root canal involve?

After giving local anesthesia to profoundly numb the area, our pediatric dentists isolate the tooth, remove the decay, and assess the health of the tooth’s nerve. If decay removal results in nerve exposure or the tooth has been painful because of damage to the nerve from the cavity, the infected portion of the nerve is removed. Our pediatric dentists then makes sure the remaining part of the nerve appears healthy. If the rest of the nerve is healthy, we place medicine on the nerve to heal it, build the tooth back up and then restore the tooth with a crown. A root canal weakens the tooth making it brittle, much like a branch that is no longer alive and becomes dried out. Therefore a crown is needed to give it back its strength and prevent the tooth from fracturing!

What’s the alternative to a baby root canal?

When your child’s tooth needs a baby root canal, the only other alternative is to have the tooth removed (extracted). Your child’s natural tooth is the best space maintainer for the permanent tooth. Loss of a baby tooth too early because of an extraction may cause the permanent tooth to come in crooked or crowded. Therefore, our pediatric dentists make every effort to save baby teeth. Unfortunately, sometimes the baby tooth has a severe infection or the nerve has been irritated for so long that it has already died or that no amount of medicine can heal the nerve. In both of those cases there is no other choice but to extract the tooth. We only recommend root canals on teeth whose symptoms are consistent with those of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s (AAPD) guidelines for root canal treatment. If a tooth is extracted prematurely, talk to your pediatric dentist about the best way to maintain or regain the future space for the permanent tooth.

Need more information about baby root canals? Click here for all that science mumbo-jumbo from the AAPD about baby root canals.