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Root Canals

How often are root canals performed on kids?

07/20/2006

Question:

My 5 year old son went to the dentist for an abcess tooth and the dentist said he needs 3 root canals on his molars. I didn`t think children even had roots in their baby teeth.Is this a common thing? and how long will it take for his pain to go away after surgery?

Thanks for a worried Mom

Answer:

Baby (primary) teeth do have roots.  If they didn't they would fall out right away.  The roots get resorbed as the permanent teeth begin to grow below them.

Baby teeth do require a type of root canal called a pulpotomy when the teeth get really deep cavities.  The dentist removes the decay and the top part of the "nerve" in the crown of the tooth. The dentist then restores the tooth, usually with a stainless steel crown.  If the tooth is badly infected, the tooth may have to be taken out.  

Baby teeth don't get the same root canal treatment that adult teeth receive because they will eventually need to come out as the permanent teeth erupt into place.  There is no surgery involved with the pulpotomy.  The only surgery would be to take the affected tooth out.  Post-treatment pain should decrease within a couple days of the treatment, but every case and child is different.

The key to avoiding having to go through these procedures is good brushing and flossing by the child (with the parents supervision) and keeping the amount of sweets the child eats to a minimum.

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Response by:

John M Nusstein, DDS John M Nusstein, DDS
Associate Professor of Endodontics
College of Dentistry
The Ohio State University