Published on May 31, 2018, Updated on May 31, 2018
Nobody likes tooth decay when it happens, especially when a small cavity actually turns out to be a large infection. In some cases, a root canal treatment is the go-to option to save a patient’s tooth. Even children have child root canals in order to save their teeth. Find out how we do child root canals, and when they are necessary for your little one’s smile.
About 92% of people in the United States have had at least one cavity. A cavity is also known as “tooth decay”. It is when plaque attacks the tooth enamel and destroys it over time. When a person eats or drinks something with sugar, that sugar mixes with mouth bacteria to create plaque. This is a clear, sticky substance like your saliva, which sticks to the teeth, especially along the gum line.
A child must brush and floss several times a day. If not, plaque has the time it needs to erode tooth enamel. Plaque is able to do this because it is an acidic substance. Think of it as having acid on your teeth that is destroying little parts here and there, only it does it slowly over time. Brushing, flossing, and seeing the dentist several times a year can prevent or stop tooth decay. Unfortunately, around 42% of children get cavities, some of which can be so severe that they need a child root canal. About 23% of children have cavities that are not being fixed, which means that decay will spread and a child will either lose their tooth, or will definitely need a child root canal.
When a child gets a cavity, the dentist drills away the small piece of tooth that has decayed. Then, the dentist fills the space with dental filling material that hardens to be tough like the real tooth. Root canals generally happen if decay grows large and gets inside a tooth. Inside the hard, outer tooth layers is an area of soft tissue called the “pulp”. This is tissue that has nerves and blood vessels to nourish a tooth as it grows. Once it’s done growing, the pulp is not really needed. However, there are still nerves that can hurt if decay and infection touch them.
With severe tooth decay, that decay has gotten inside the soft tissue of the tooth. It’s gone through the hard, outer layers by that point. A dentist doesn’t want the whole tooth to decay, so he must get out all the bad stuff to save the tooth. For a root canal, a dentist will place a rubber screen around the infected tooth. All they will see is the one tooth, surrounded by that rubber to prevent infection from getting to other teeth. The previously-numbed tooth will then have a small hole drilled in it at the top. Using very small brush-like tools, the dentist will remove all infected pulp. Every speck of soft tissue, infection and decay will be removed. A sterile dental filling will go in the tooth instead. All the spaces will be filled up and the tooth will be sealed once more. No more pulpy center, which means no more tooth pain, decay or infection.
A root canal procedure is more taxing on your teeth than a cavity filling because it involves your whole tooth and the nerves inside. We have done many child root canals, as it is a procedure that is done when tooth decay is severe and we don’t want a child to lose their tooth. Even though the baby teeth will eventually fall out, you want to save the tooth if you can, so the permanent teeth come in at the right time and size. Luckily, we mostly do child root canals if a child has already had their baby teeth fall out. This procedure will follow the same format as any other type of root canal procedure, even if it is needed in the baby teeth.
When severe decay is present and a child likely has several more years with their baby tooth, then we would determine if we need to do a child root canal on a baby tooth. This procedure takes longer than a cavity filling because the entire tooth is involved. When it comes to children, we explain everything we are doing before and as we do it so that they don’t fear the unknown. During longer dental appointments, it’s important that we talk with the child and provide them activities to occupy their time (such as watching a movie) so that they don’t get restless or nervous. No matter if it is an adult, teen or a child, we will perform a root canal if it is in the best interest of the patient.
Our main goal is to see patients early-on and to educate them in proper oral hygiene practices. If a young patient knows how to brush and floss their teeth correctly, they may never need a child root canal. Parents play a major role in helping children avoid tooth decay and other oral health problems.
Make sure that you are brushing your child’s teeth as soon as they get their first tooth as an infant. Brush and floss their teeth for the first few years and help them until they have fully mastered these skills. Want to ensure that your child never has to have a child root canal? Make sure you are taking them into our dental office often for exams and cleanings! A dental exam can catch tooth decay when it is small, helping your child avoid longer procedures. If you want to see what your child’s oral health looks like, or if you want to know more about child root canals, call Hardy Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics today at (720) 887-6003!