blog banner

Pediatric Root Canals San Diego 101

November 13, 2023 ABC Children's Dentistry

Hearing that your child needs a root canal can be frightening, particularly if the patient is under the age of 14.   If a dentist says your child needs a root canal to treat a decayed tooth, what are your options?  Is the procedure safe for young children?  How long will it take to recover?  Will there be permanent damage to my child’s teeth?  These are all common questions that parents ask when faced with a pediatric root canal procedure.

Fortunately, your pediatric dentist can give you answers to these and other questions that will help ease your mind and allow you to make an informed decision about whether your child should undergo this type of surgery.

The Facts About Pediatric Root Canals 

A “root canal” is the common term for an endodontic treatment, which is a procedure designed to remove dead or dying tissue from deep in the center of a tooth.  The pulp of the tooth, or the soft, spongy area that contains the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue, is particularly vulnerable to infection from certain types of bacteria.  It is also the part that is most critical in allowing the tooth to remain healthy.

When the pulp of the tooth becomes badly infected, it must be treated or the tooth must be extracted.  In order to avoid pulling the tooth, dentists will often opt for a root canal, in which the center of the tooth is accessed and cleaned out, then sealed with a covering such as a crown.

Can Root Canals be Avoided? 

One way to avoid root canals altogether is to spot and treat cavities quickly.  When a child has a cavity, it often appears as a dark spot on the surface of the tooth.  White, scaly patches on the teeth can also indicate a buildup of plaque, which can allow in bacteria at the gumline and lead to cavities under the surface.

The best weapons you and your child have in the fight against cavities is a regular oral health routine and regular dental checkups.  Children who brush and floss correctly are far less likely to develop cavities, and a pediatric dentist can quickly spot a problem if your child goes in for regular checkups.  Avoiding sugary foods and drinks will also help avoid cavities.

Does My Child Need a Root Canal? 

Once a serious cavity has formed, however, parents must make the decision as to whether a root canal is the right treatment for the condition.  Pediatric dentists often recommend root canals when:

  • Teeth are seriously damaged by injury. If your child breaks a tooth or otherwise seriously compromises the outside of the tooth’s enamel, the interior of the tooth may no longer be protected.  If a cavity develops, a root canal may be the only way to avoid removing the tooth altogether.
  • Teeth are showing signs of serious infection. Puffy gums, fever, pain and other indications of serious infection should be taken seriously.  If an infection has developed inside the tooth, it can eventually cause tooth loss and even spread to other areas of the body.  In some cases, abscesses or pus pockets may form near infected teeth, which are very painful and can be dangerous.
  • Removal of the tooth would impair eating or speech. Children rely on their teeth to learn to speak correctly, and we all need our teeth to eat properly.  If removal of the tooth would impair natural speech or proper chewing or eating, it is important to do everything possible to save the tooth.

Some symptoms that may appear if your child needs a root canal include:

  • Unexplained pain in the teeth or gum area. If your child has pain in the teeth or gums that does not seem to have a visible cause, it may be caused by changes inside the tooth itself.  This type of pain should always be checked out by a pediatric dentist.
  • Temperature sensitivity. While sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks may be caused by other issues than tooth decay, it is a common symptom that indicates the need for a root canal.
  • Sudden, unexpected tooth looseness. If your child’s permanent teeth become unexpectedly loose for any reason, you should always visit your pediatric dentist to rule out internal infection as a cause.

A root canal is a serious procedure that should only be done by a qualified pediatric dentist.  At ABC Children’s Dentistry, we work with parents to determine the best solution to any problem with a child’s teeth or gums.  If a root canal is required, we will help you understand the need for the procedure, what to expect, and how to best support your child’s dental health during and after the surgery.  Give us a call today to learn more.