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Here’s What You Need to Know About Root Canals on Baby Teeth

By April 25, 2019August 2nd, 2022Blog

Often times, especially since our Naperville dentists for kids focus on prevention, we can avoid more extensive treatments like root canals on baby teeth. However, there are occasions when a primary tooth is damaged to the point that a root canal is recommended. This can be pretty surprising for parents. After all, the baby teeth are going to fall out anyway, so what’s the point in saving them? Well, those adorable little pearly whites serve a number of important purposes, including helping with chewing and speaking and saving room for the permanent teeth to erupt properly. That’s why if it isn’t close to the time when the tooth would fall out naturally, it can be beneficial to try and save it and opt for a baby root canal over an extraction.

little boy smiling

Anatomy of a Tooth

Before we dive deep into baby root canals, let’s have a quick tooth anatomy lesson. All teeth have a super strong coating on the outside, known as enamel. Fun fact: Enamel is the hardest and most mineralized substance in the human body! Underneath the enamel is the dentin, which is also pretty hard, however, it has microscopic tubes. When enamel erodes and dentin is exposed, hot and cold sensations can go through these tubes, which is what makes teeth hurt or feel sensitive. Finally, underneath both layers is the pulp. This is actually living tissue that has nerves and blood vessels. The pulp is located in the pulp chamber in the middle of the tooth and in passageways, referred to as “canals,” that branch off from the chamber and into the root of the tooth.

When is a Root Canal on a Baby Tooth Necessary?

Things like trauma, such as getting hit in the face while playing sports, and bacteria and deep cavities in children can damage the pulp and may cause inflammation and infection. If not treated, the infection can travel through the canals and out of the tips of the tooth’s root, spreading to the jawbone, potentially leading to an abscess, and causing even more pain and damage.

The only way to determine if kids need root canals on baby teeth is to visit a dentist. At Innovative Pediatric Dentistry, we use advanced diagnostics to comfortably get a clear visual of the inside of your child’s tooth to determine the best course of treatment. However, symptoms like unprovoked, throbbing pain, sensitivity to hot and cold that lingers after your child is done eating or drinking, a tooth that darkens in color, significant pain when eating or putting pressure on the tooth, or a small bump on the gums near the tooth that looks kind of like a pimple are all signs a tooth may need a baby root canal, or pulpotomy.

The reason why we perform root canals on baby teeth is to maintain the remaining tooth structure of a primary tooth and keep the gum tissue and bones that support it safe. A root canal can prevent infection and ensure the developing permanent teeth stay healthy. Unless the tooth would have fallen out on its own in the near future, a root canal on a baby tooth might be indicated instead of an extraction.

What’s the Baby Root Canal Procedure Like?

Root canals have gotten such a bad rap but at our practice, we use modern techniques and technology, so your child won’t feel a thing during a baby root canal procedure. In fact, for most patients, it’s no worse than a regular filling. If necessary, like in the case of very young children who need extensive work, kids who are extremely anxious or those with special health care needs, we also offer safe sedation dentistry to make the experience even easier.

The baby root canal procedure, or pulpotomy, involves numbing the gums and tooth. We then use teeny tiny tools to remove the damaged part of the nerve and pulp tissue. We disinfect and sterilize the area and place a medicament over the remaining portion. Finally, we seal up the little hole that is left behind. Typically, a pediatric crown is recommended to protect the tooth. The crown will restore your child’s little chomper to its normal size, shape and function and it will look just like the rest of your kiddo’s teeth.

Our Naperville pediatric dentists always treat conservatively at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry and we do what we can to preserve as much of the tooth’s natural structure as possible. If a procedure like a root canal is necessary, we’ll walk you through your child’s diagnosis, the proposed course of treatment and the pros and cons of your different options. You’ll feel confident about making a decision concerning their care. Thanks to our modern technology, we can perform treatments more quickly, comfortably and painlessly. To learn more and see how we can restore your child’s smile, book a visit at Innovative Pediatric Dentistry today!