Is Root Canal Treatment Necessary For Children?

To treat cavities in children, dentist are increasingly recommending root canal treatment even for temporary teeth. Is it necessary for children? Read on to know all about it.

By Monali Bordoloi

Is Root Canal Treatment Necessary For Children?

Ayesha Babu, six-years-old loves all things sweet. She is reluctant to brush her teeth two times in a day and always does it in a hurry. No wonder, soon she develops cavities in two of her teeth. One day, when she complains of a toothache, her parents take her to a dentist. The dentist after treating the infection, recommends root canal treatment for two of Ayesha’s teeth to save the teeth. However, her parents are in two minds about the expensive procedure as the cavities are in her temporary teeth which will anyway go away in a year’s time.

Like Ayesha’s parents, many parents think twice before going ahead with root canal treatment for the primary or baby teeth of their children. Do you think that your babies milk or primary teeth will eventually fall out, so does not need saving? But do you know, if left untreated, the infection may spread downwards and affect the permanent teeth? A damaged milk tooth can also affect the way your child speaks.

Is root canal necessary for children with primary teeth?

When the primary tooth is damaged, dentist advised going for a root canal treatment to stop the decay from spreading further. The procedure involves the dentist to remove the damaged pulp inside the tooth and replaced it with a medicated material.

The root canal treatment is not recommended when the tooth in question is about to fall out. Sometimes, young children are afraid to go for the root canal, as they think that it will be a painful procedure. But, it is a painless procedure as the area around the teeth is under local anaesthesia.

Dr Neerja Raju, dentist, Little Pearls dental clinics, Bengaluru, “Root canal is safe for babies or children. It is only recommended when the damaged primary teeth will affect the growth of the new permanent teeth. After the procedure is done, the tooth is then covered with a crown ‘cap’. It gives the tooth a long-lasting restoration. For children, there are ready-made caps available."

Dr Neerja explains, “Decision for the root canal treatment for primary tooth depends on the acute or chronic stage of infection. Each milk tooth has a particular age for shedding, front teeth shed at 6 to 9 years, the primary molars shed at 10 to 12 years and at 11 to 13 years, the primary canines go away.”

She adds, “Primary or baby teeth must be preserved as natural space maintainers till the time permanent teeth erupt. If these primary teeth are removed before that, the permanent ones will not come out in the proper time and proper position. There could be some gap between teeth too.”

How it is done:

Root canal in children is also known as Pulpectomy. When children visit a dentist with tooth pain, an x-ray or radiograph will be taken to see the erupting status of the permanent teeth. The root condition of the damaged teeth is also analysed.

Based on that, the dentist advised for or against the procedure. Pulpectomy or root canal is a simple procedure. In general, it is done under local anaesthesia.

The material used to fill up the gap in the tooth are mainly contain calcium hydroxide and iodoform which are antibacterial. When the permanent teeth erupt in due time, the root along with the filling paste resorbs and the tooth exfoliates normally.

Once the procedure is done, the brittle teeth are protected either with stainless steel crowns or tooth coloured zirconia crowns. These crowns need not be removed later as they exfoliate with the natural crown.

Root canal in babies takes one sitting in general. But if there is swelling or infection, it may take 2 to 3 sittings. Talk to your child about the procedure to ease her anxiety about it. 

Why are cases of the root canal for children on the rise?

Dr Neeraja says, “Pulpectomy cases in children are on the rise as most children do not follow dental hygiene properly. Eating too much of chocolates, candies also lead to cavities. Due to these factors, children are developing tooth decay at a young age.

If you want healthy teeth for your child, do not feed breast milk or bottle milk throughout the night. Make sure to clean their teeth after every feeding. Rinse the mouth of your child with water after food. 

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