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Can Your Child Get a Root Canal?

January 30, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — drmaggie @ 2:20 pm
young child holding magnifying glass to teeth

If your child has a toothache, the most likely way their pediatric dentist will fix it is with a filling. But, if the cavity has reached the interior part of the tooth (the pulp), then they may have to perform either a pulpotomy or pulpectomy. While these treatments may sound unfamiliar, they can easily be thought of as a root canal for kids. They are quite different from the procedure performed on adults, but an important similarity they share is that they are both virtually painless. What’s the difference between a pulpotomy and pulpectomy, and why would your child ever need one? You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in today’s blog.

Pulpotomy vs. Pulpectomy

Both baby and adult teeth have three distinct layers: the enamel on the outside, dentin right underneath it, and the dental pulp at the center. The pulp is a collection of blood vessels and contains nerve tissue, which is why you can feel your teeth despite them being rigid structures.

Typically, a cavity only affects the enamel, but sometimes, the bacteria can reach and infect the pulp. For adults, this kind of problem would be addressed using a root canal, but for kids and baby teeth, the approach is a bit different.

With a pulpotomy, the dental pulp is still alive, but it’s just a little “sick.” So, after numbing the child, a small hole is created in the tooth, and the infected pulp is removed while leaving the rest in place. This allows the tooth to keep functioning properly while eliminating the source of the problem.

For a pulpectomy, the pulp is either dead or so infected that it can’t be saved, so all of it is removed, and then the tooth is filled to restore its internal structure.

Why Not Just Pull the Tooth?

Many parents wonder why a dentist would go through all this trouble to save a tooth that is just going to fall out on its own anyway. This is a good question!

The answer is that it’s extremely important that a child keep their baby teeth right up until they fall out naturally. If a tooth goes missing too early, this cannot only make eating and speaking more difficult, but this can also create spaces in the mouth that can lead to much bigger issues down the road.

Due to a gap, the nearby teeth may begin to drift into it and cause crowding and crookedness. Plus, without the baby tooth serving as a guide, the incoming adult tooth may erupt slightly crooked as well. This all leads to a child suffering from bite issues and needing orthodontics, and no one wants that if it can be avoided!

That’s why a pulpotomy and pulpectomy are so useful—they can stop a toothache, allow a child to keep their tooth, and safeguard their oral development at the same time.

Are These Treatments Painful?

Thankfully, both pulpectomies and pulpotomies are extremely comfortable when provided by a certified pediatric dentist. Between their light touch, local anesthesia, and sedation if needed, the child basically doesn’t feel anything while in the chair. Their tooth might be a bit sensitive afterward, but it should feel much, much better than before.

So, if your child has a painful tooth and their pediatric dentist recommends one of these procedures, you now know that they are helping their smile today and protecting it for the future as well!

About the Author

Dr. Maggie Davis is a board-certified pediatric dentist who earned her dental degree and completed her specialty training at the University of Florida. She is also a Diplomate of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. She has performed countless pulpotomies and pulpectomies over the years, and she also offers sedation to help particularly nervous children relax. To learn more about these procedures or schedule an appointment at our dental office, click here.

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