Parents often want to know how long to wait before feeding their children following fluoride treatment. This procedure is usually done to remineralize the teeth and strengthen them against cavities or decay. The time before patients can eat or drink may depend on the fluoride varnish used. When it comes down to food choices, the…
When Is a Children’s Root Canal Needed?
While all parents hope their children’s teeth never need a root canal, this procedure is one of the most common treatments a pediatric dentist performs. If cavities form in a child’s mouth or a tooth is injured, the pulp of the involved tooth may become infected. This can result in premature tooth loss if the diseased root is not removed. In these situations, a root canal is often performed to stop the spread of decay and preserve the child’s baby tooth.
Signs a root canal might be needed
One of the most common reasons for a root canal in children is an infection of the pulp due to tooth decay or a crack in the tooth. Since their immune systems are immature, children often have a higher risk of a tooth infection than adults. There are a number of symptoms that may indicate a child possibly needs a root canal:
- Extreme tooth pain and throbbing
- Discoloration or darkening of the infected tooth
- Redness of the gums
- Swelling in the gums, neck or jaw
- Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Sensitivity while chewing, especially with cold or hot food items
- Fever or nausea
- A noticeable abscess or pus pocket around the tooth
Making a diagnosis
If a parent notices any of the warning signs of a tooth infection, the child should see a pediatric dentist immediately. Many times, the dentist can tell if an abscess is present by simply examining the mouth. Sometimes, an X-ray and pulp vitality test are needed to confirm the infection. If the child is not experiencing any symptoms, the pocket might be found during a routine X-ray or dental examination.
Why a pediatric dentist performs a root canal
While it is true that all baby teeth will fall out independently at some point, primary teeth should be saved whenever possible. Baby teeth act as placeholders for future permanent teeth that are not yet ready to emerge. If a child loses a tooth prematurely due to an infection or injury, the surrounding teeth might shift and overcrowding can occur. Often, orthodontic treatment is necessary to address these issues. Additionally, missing teeth can make it difficult for children to talk or chew normally. A root canal helps preserve infected baby teeth, which allows adult teeth to grow in normally.
Root canal alternatives
If the root of a child’s tooth becomes infected, the only other alternative to a root canal is tooth extraction. While baby teeth can be saved a majority of the time with a root canal, there are some situations where the removal of the tooth is the only option. For instance, teeth with extreme fractures might be too damaged to repair. In these situations, a space maintainer might be used until the permanent tooth comes in.
Cavities and tooth injuries are common issues for children that can eventually lead to an infection if not treated right away. In most situations, a pediatric dentist can perform a root canal to get rid of the infection and allow the baby tooth to remain in place.
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