Nobody wants to be told they need a root canal. But, even worse, nobody wants to hear that their child needs a root canal. After all, isn’t a root canal the most intense and painful type of dental procedure?
Actually, not really. Root canals aren’t nearly as horrible as many people believe. Modern techniques have significantly reduced the pain involved. However, there are still many differences in root canal treatments for adults and children. Here’s an in-depth look:
What are Root Canals?
Also called endodontic therapy, a root canal is basically the last step taken to save a tooth. A cavity, crack or other issue has attacked the tooth. The nerve inside has either died or become abscessed. Basically, without a root canal, the tooth is now damaged to the point where it will need to be pulled.
During a root canal, the inside of the tooth is cleaned out. Nerves and pulp are completely removed. When the procedure is completed, the tooth no longer contains any active nerves. However, the tooth itself can now remain in the mouth without causing pain or spreading infection.
Why are Root Canals Preferable to Pulling a Tooth?
Pulling a tooth and replacing it with a dental implant is usually avoided at all costs. Each tooth helps support the surrounding tooth. Removing just one tooth can have a negative impact on your entire mouth and jaw.
If a tooth is removed, the remaining teeth can tilt inward, the open socket can breed infection and other problems can occur. Plus, replacing a tooth with a dental implant can be very expensive. Generally, root canals are the preferred alternative to pulling a tooth.
Should Children Have Their Teeth Pulled?
Dentists will almost always try to avoid pulling teeth in adults. But what about children? After all, children’s teeth aren’t permanent. They’re going to fall out eventually at some point when replaced by permanent teeth. Should an infected baby tooth just be allowed to fall out naturally?
Generally, no. Baby teeth play an important role in the development of permanent teeth. They act as a guide for the permanent tooth underneath. If the baby tooth is removed prematurely, the permanent tooth will emerge incorrectly. This can lead to crooked and improperly formed permanent teeth.
Even worse, if a baby tooth is missing, the surrounding teeth are likely to lean into the empty space. When the permanent teeth try to emerge, they’ll become trapped underneath these displaced baby teeth. This can result in serious orthodontic problems.
When is a Root Canal Necessary for a Child?
Infected baby teeth can’t just be pulled out. At the same time, they can’t be allowed to stay in the mouth. Cavities can spread quickly to surrounding teeth. In fact, baby teeth are far more vulnerable to cavities than adult teeth.
A root canal is the best way to treat an infection. More importantly, a root canal is the only guarantee that an infection won’t return.
What Role do Antibiotics Play in a Root Canal?
Antibiotics are usually given to the patient a few days before the root canal. This helps clear up any bacteria surrounding the inflamed gum tissue. When this bacteria is removed, the dentist will have an easier time applying anesthetic, which dramatically reduces the patient’s level of pain and discomfort.
Root canals have a bad reputation because sometimes emergency procedures have to be performed without the course of antibiotics. Anesthetic doesn’t work very well on inflamed tissues, which makes the procedure much more painful. Fortunately, most children’s root canals do not have to be performed as emergency procedures.
How are Root Canals Performed on Kids?
Endodontic procedures for kids and adults have lots of similarities but also some very important differences.
Both children and adults usually require a pulpotomy. The tooth is numbed and the infected material inside removed. An adult tooth will then be filled, which promotes long-term stability. But a child’s tooth will naturally fall out, so it’s usually not filled. Instead, the tooth is fitted with a cap. This keeps the baby tooth in place long enough to act as a guide for the permanent tooth.
What Discounts are Available for Root Canals?
While you want your child to have healthy teeth, paying for a root canal can be a surprising and unwelcome expense. Fortunately, savings are available.
A Cigna dental discount plan can be a great way to save on a wide variety of dental procedures. Often considered an affordable alternative to dental insurance, a dental discount plan is a membership club which offers discounts at over 160,000 participating dentists, including many endodontic specialists. Depending on the specifics of the procedure performed, you can save between 15% and 50%. Even better, savings are available within about 72 hours of signup. You can save on the root canal you need right away!
If your child needs a root canal, try not to worry. The procedure isn’t nearly as painful or expensive as many people think. A root canal today will lead to proper tooth development tomorrow and help promote great oral health for a lifetime.