Posted on: December 23, 2016
Root Canals for Children on Long Island
For a parent, hearing that your child needs a root canal can be difficult. Fortunately, the procedure and the recovery are easy. Our endodontic specialists are experts at providing root canals for children on Long Island. Here are some answers to the questions you may have:
Why Do Some Children Need Root Canals?
It’s a common question from parents: why does my child need a root canal? There are several ways your child’s tooth may have become damaged to the point where he or she needs a root canal. Long Island endodontist Dr. Richard Marcus cites these three top reasons:
1. Trauma to the child’s permanent tooth or teeth
Mouth injuries in children are common. Imagine a child being hit in the mouth by a baseball or accidentally getting elbowed in the face while playing basketball. A child may slip while running or fall down the stairs and hit his or her mouth. And some children receive a mouth injury from other kinds of accidents such as a car crash.
A child may need a root canal at our Huntington, NY office if the child suffered a mouth injury that broke or knocked loose a permanent tooth. If the damage to the tooth exposes the pulp, which contains the nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue, then the child can suffer a painful toothache as air, food, and liquids irritate the nerves.
2. Severe dental decay (cavity) in the child’s tooth
Children are exposed to more sugary drinks and foods than ever. But it’s not just sugar that causes cavities. Every time you or your child eat or drink something, the bacteria in your mouth releases acids to break down those substances. A clear, sticky substance called plaque contains some of these bacteria. If the child does not brush his or her teeth twice a day to remove the plaque, it hardens into a substance called tartar or calculus. This hardened substance adheres to the teeth, keeping the bacteria pressed against the enamel of the tooth. That allows the acids to break down the enamel. If a dentist does not see the cavity in time to remove the decayed area and replace it with a filling, the decay continues to spread through the enamel until it reaches the root canal and the pulp (nerves) inside.
That’s why it’s so important to establish a healthy oral hygiene routine. Everyone should brush their teeth for two minutes twice a day using a fluoridated toothpaste, and floss once a day. Brushing removes the cavity-causing plaque from the surfaces of the teeth and flossing removes food particles and plaque from between teeth. It’s also important to visit a dentist twice a year for professional cleanings. The dentist or hygienist uses special tools called scalers to gently remove the hardened calculus that brushing alone can’t dislodge. Plus, the dental professional can provide fluoride, which is nature’s cavity-fighter.
3. Genetics can cause bad teeth
The health of your teeth depends on the quality of your dental hygiene routine. It also depends on your genes. Some people are born with factors that make they more susceptible to tooth decay. Some people generate less saliva than others. Saliva helps wash away the acidic bacteria that attacks tooth enamel, so a decrease in the amount of beneficial saliva in the mouth makes a difference to your overall oral health.
About 60% of the risk for tooth decay appears to be due to genetic factors, according to a CNN report citing Mary Marazita, the director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine. More research is under way.
What to Expect at Your Child’s Root Canal Appointment
If you child has suffered a mouth injury, then we recommend taking the child to his or her regular dentist for evaluation. If the child does not have a dentist, then it is appropriate to call Dr. Marcus’ endodontics office in Huntington directly to determine whether an emergency root canal for the child is necessary. Regardless of whether the child has been referred by another dentist or is self-referred, Dr. Marcus’ team will get that child in the same day to diagnose the damage to the tooth and advise on the best course for treatment.
The parent is welcome to accompany the child during the entire visit. The child will receive low-dosage x-rays to determine the health of the tooth and whether a root canal is needed. Dr. Marcus or one of our other Huntington endodontists will examine the child’s mouth and then talk to the parent about the diagnosis and proposed treatment.
If a root canal for the child is necessary, we can typically start treatment immediately. All the way through, we will ensure the child is comfortable. Like many dentist offices, we can use nitrous oxide, which is better known as laughing gas. The child will remain awake but will not feel any pain or discomfort during the procedure. If the child has extreme anxiety or if the child needs multiple root canals during the same visit, then we can arrange for an anesthesiologist to provide general anesthesia during the child’s root canal procedure in our endodontics office on Long Island. There is no need for hospitalization.
What to Expect After a Child’s Root Canal
After a child has a root canal in our Long Island endodontics office, we will provide written instructions to ensure a smooth recovery. This includes details about the type of over-the-counter medication such as Tylenol or Advil that the child is allowed to take to alleviate any mild discomfort.
The child should rest for several hours once he or she returns home from the root canal procedure. The child’s mouth will be numb, so it’s important not to eat until normal feeling returns; otherwise, the child could accidentally bite his or her lip, cheek, or tongue. Once the child is able to eat, only provide soft foods. Within a day, the child will be able to eat normally again.
Typically, children can resume their regular activities within half a day. The root canal treatment will have completely eliminated the toothache and associated mouth pain, and children recover quickly from the procedure.
Just like after an adult root canal, children with root canals need to visit their regular dentist to have a permanent crown placed over the tooth that was treated.
If you have any questions about root canals in children, please call our Long Island endodontics office.