Posts for tag: root canal
It’s often best health-wise to preserve even the most troubled tooth—including a child’s primary (“baby”) tooth. If that sounds like too much effort for a tooth that lasts only a few years, there’s a big reason why—if it’s lost prematurely, the incoming permanent tooth above it could erupt out of position.
Preserving a decayed primary tooth could include procedures similar to a root canal treatment, commonly used in adult permanent teeth with inner decay. However, we may need to modify this approach to protect the primary tooth’s pulp. This innermost layer plays a critical role in early dental development.
Because an adult tooth has reached maturity, removing diseased pulp tissue has little effect on its permanent health. But the pulp contributes to dentin growth (the layer between it and the outer enamel) in primary and young permanent teeth, so removing it could ultimately compromise the tooth’s long-term health.
Our goal then with a child’s tooth is to remove as much diseased tissue as possible while involving the pulp as little as possible. What techniques we use will depend on how much of the pulp has become infected.
For example, if decay has advanced to but hasn’t yet penetrated the pulp, we may remove all but a small amount of the decayed structure just next to the pulp to avoid its exposure. We may then apply an antibacterial agent to this remaining portion and seal the tooth to curb further infection.
If on the other hand the pulp has become infected, we may try to remove only the infected portion and leave the remaining pulp intact. We’ll only be able to do this, however, if we deem the remaining pulp healthy enough to remain infection-free after the procedure. If not, we may need to remove the entire pulp as with a traditional root canal. This option, though, is a last resort due to the possible effect on dentin growth and the tooth’s long-term health.
As you can see attempts to preserve a primary tooth can be quite involved. But if we can help it reach its full life span, it could mean better dental health for a lifetime.
If you would like more information on caring for primary teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Canal Treatment for Children’s Teeth.”
While some people associate the need for root canal treatment with an injury or trauma to a tooth (which is a valid cause), it can also most commonly be caused by tooth decay that is left untreated. This is the reason why we have put together this brief guide to explain the three common stages of tooth decay that lead up to the need for a root canal.
Stage 1: During this stage, decay begins to form in the tiny grooves on the biting surface of a tooth or where the teeth contact each other. The result is loss of the surface enamel of the tooth.
Stage 2: Left untreated, the disease progresses through the enamel and into the dentin, which forms the body of the tooth. Once in the dentin, it progresses more rapidly until it reaches the pulp — the living tissue within the root canals of the tooth. The decay infects the pulp tissues, which contain the nerves of the teeth, causing pain. The end result of inflammation and infection of the pulp is that it dies.
Stage 3: As the nerve dies an infection results, which causes pain and swelling. For some people who do not regularly visit our office, this may be the first physical sign that they have a problem. But all is not lost, a successful root canal treatment, whereby the infected pulpal tissue is removed and the root canals are cleaned and sealed will not only relieve the pain, but save your tooth. So the good news is that once a tooth has had the appropriate endodontic treatment (“endo” – inside; “dont” – tooth) followed by a proper restoration, the tooth can last as long as your other teeth. The key is to take proper care of your teeth, have routine cleanings, and visit our office as soon as you feel you have a problem with a tooth.
If you are having pain or symptoms from a tooth or teeth, check it out with us — you may or may not need a root canal treatment. Contact our office to schedule an appointment and find out. Don't wait until it's too late. And to learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for a root canal, read the article “I'd Rather Have A Root Canal....”