Tooth-Saving Endodontics for Children
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of treated and untreated cavities in children has increased over the last four decades. Decay in primary teeth (commonly called “baby teeth”) or immature permanent teeth tends to progress rapidly, often impacting the pulp (made up of the nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue in the center of the tooth). Trauma that impacts pulp is another common problem associated with immature teeth, with research showing that almost a third of children experience a dental injury by age 14. In addition, a prolonged toothache can lead to infection in the pulp. Although most people associate endodontic treatment with adults, pulp procedures are also used to restore the health of teeth in children. At Southwest Endodontics & Periodontics, Inc., we combine the latest technology with a compassionate touch to deliver gentle pediatric endodontics. Our goal is to restore your child’s oral health, save the impacted tooth and protect their permanent smile.
Treatments to Restore Pulp and Protect Teeth
When the outer layers of a tooth are damaged due to cavities or trauma, this can lead to a painful toothache caused by inflammation of the pulp (pulpitis). Pulpitis is typically reversible in its early stages, but may become irreversible if left untreated. A tooth’s health and the extent of pulp tissue damage determine, pulpotomy or pulpectomy is the best approach. Therapies for primary teeth with normal pulp or reversible pulpitis include pulpotomy. A pulpectomy is recommended for nonvital pulp treatment in primary teeth with irreversible pulpitis or infected pulp that also impacts the root canal. At Southwest Endodontics & Periodontics, Inc., we ensure that your child feels comfortable and safe during treatment.
Pulp degeneration stops root formation, leaving immature teeth with an open apex (tooth root end). It’s crucial to preserve the health of pulp because incomplete root formation in immature teeth can result in fragility. A pulpotomy (sometimes referred to as a “baby root canal”) is the procedure of choice when decay or trauma is confined to the crown of the tooth. This procedure is recommended by the American Association of Pediatric Dentistry for the management of pulp exposure in immature permanent teeth to achieve continued root formation and closure of the apex. It’s also performed in primary teeth, especially baby molars. During this procedure, infected or contaminated coronal pulp tissue (pulp above the gumline) is removed to reach healthy vital pulp. After pulp tissue removal, a dressing agent is applied to the pulp surface, thereby enabling the pulp to heal and the root to form. A crown will then be placed by a general dentist to protect the tooth.
Pulpectomies are used when both the pulp chamber and root canal of the tooth are impacted. This procedure is effective for primary teeth with dead pulp or permanent teeth with infected pulp or abscesses. Diseased pulp is completely removed from the tooth, then the canals are cleansed, disinfected and packed with a reabsorbable material. If the tooth is permanent, a non-reabsorbable material is used. The final step is to place a crown over the tooth to provide strength and restore function. The only difference between a pulpectomy and root canal is that the latter also involves sealing the empty space with a rubber-like material called gutta-percha.