It can come as a surprise when your child's dentist recommends that you make an appointment for your child to see an endodontist. Endodontists handle root canal procedures, and normally you wouldn't expect a child to need a root canal procedure. But sometimes children do have tooth problems that require treatment at the root. Take a look at a few things that you should know about your child's tooth and root treatments.
Do Children Really Need Root Canals?
There are several different types of root canal procedures, and the ones that are usually performed on children are not the same as the ones that are usually performed on adults. If your child still has their baby teeth, chances are that they need a pulpotomy or a pulpectomy. A pulpotomy removes infected nerve and pulp material only from the crown of the tooth, whereas a pulpectomy removes nerve and root material from the entire tooth.
What Are The Benefits of These Procedures on Baby Teeth?
At first glance, it may not make a lot of sense for a child to have one of these procedures on a tooth that's eventually going to fall out anyway. But the truth is, it can take a long time for your child to lose all of their baby teeth. Most children begin to lose teeth at around age five or six, and continue to lose teeth until they're around twelve or thirteen. That means that the whole process of losing baby teeth and having them replaced by adult teeth can take six to eight years.
If your child has an infected baby tooth that they may not lose for years, having a pulpotomy or pulpectomy makes sense. You wouldn't want your child to be in pain all of that time, and you also wouldn't want the infection spreading to other teeth, including some permanent teeth. And pulling a baby tooth too early can lead to difficulty speaking or eating. Furthermore, if a baby tooth is removed too early, the teeth around the space left can begin to lean into the empty space, causing crooked teeth and a need for even more dental work down the line. Having a root canal preserves the tooth until the time comes for it to fall out naturally, which allows your child's mouth to continue to develop normally.
What to Expect From A Children's Root Canal
If your child needs a pulpectomy or pulpotomy, the endodontist will begin by applying a local anesthetic, so that your child won't feel anything throughout the procedure. The endodontist will also use a dental dam to isolate the affected tooth. Your child shouldn't feel any more discomfort than they would if they were having a filling put in place.
The procedure should ultimately make your child feel better. Infected roots and nerves in the teeth can be very painful, and removing the infection should result in less pain, not more. Still, your child's tooth may be tender and sensitive to hot or cold temperatures for a few days following the procedure. You can help your child by feeding them soft, bland foods for a few days. Your dentist may prescribe a pain reliever or recommend an over the counter pain reliever. Cold compresses held on the face near the site of the procedure can help as well. If the pain doesn't subside in a few days, your child may need a follow-up appointment to be sure that all of the infection was removed.
When it comes to infected teeth, it's best to have them taken care of sooner rather than later – infections tend to spread and become worse the longer they're allowed to fester. If your child's dentist recommends a root canal, you should make an appointment with an endodontist right away.