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Ways to Treat Your Child's Tooth Decay

3D illustration of a silver tooth filling on a molar
When a parent learns that his or her child has a cavity, it can be a panic-inducing experience. After all, you want your child to have a good dental visit with as little pain as possible. A dentist can treat tooth decay in children in many ways and still minimize discomfort.

Baby Root Canals

While root canal therapy may be more common in adults, they can be necessary for children with deep decay. Although baby teeth aren't permanent, untreated tooth decay can spread downwards and damage permanent teeth if left unchecked.
While extractions are good options, root canal therapy may be better if the loss of baby teeth will:
  • Cause other teeth to crowd or move, thus causing future orthodontic issues
  • Make eating painful
  • Delay speech development
  • Affect normal tongue positioning
Your dentist can advise you on which route to take. If you decide your child needs root canal therapy to fix the decay, then you should pick between these two procedures: a pulpectomy and a pulpotomy.
Pulpectomy
In this therapy, the tooth pulp and all the root canals will be removed. This therapy may be necessary for children who have deep decay and are experiencing tooth pain or the risk of abscesses.
After the infected tissue is completely removed, your dentist will pack the baby tooth with an absorbable material, like Zinc oxide eugenol (ZOE). Absorbable means that the body will assimilate the material - similar to dissolvable sutures.
Pulpotomy
Your dentist will perform a pulpotomy on your child if the root is still healthy. This procedure is very similar to a pulpectomy, except your dentist will just be removing infected pulp.
Whatever root canal therapy your child undergoes, the good news is that your child shouldn't be in pain. Baby tooth canals are very similar to fillings, and your dentist will administer a local anesthetic. While your child may be a little sore after the procedure, he or she will probably feel a lot better since the infected tissue will be removed and no longer causing toothaches.

Extractions

If an infected baby tooth is about to fall out and the underlying permanent teeth aren't affected, then your child may be better off with an extraction.
Your dentist may prefer an extraction if abscesses are a real risk in your child's case. An abscess, or a pocket of pus near the tooth root, is often caused by tooth decay and can be life-threatening. This infection can spread and cause your child to get sick, so your dentist will want to remove the tooth and infection.
As in the case of root canal therapy, your child should feel a lot better after an extraction since there will no longer be an aching tooth.

Crowns Placed With the Hall Technique

The Hall technique is a pediatric technique where the dentist places a composite or steel crown over an infected tooth. By sealing the infected tooth from oxygen, the bacteria cannot thrive. The crown will halt the spread of decay since it will come into contact with food debris and acids instead of enamel.
This procedure will only work if the decay is minimal. If the decay is spreading towards the adult teeth, then it's not a good idea to place the crown. This procedure is also ideal if a baby tooth is about to fall out since the procedure is less stressful for the child and doesn't require shots.

Preventing Future Issues

After your child's decay is taken care of, you and your dentist may want to discuss preventative measures, like sealants. Sealants are plastic coatings your dentist can easily apply to your child's teeth. The CDC says that children without sealants have about three times more cavities than those who do.
We at Heiden Dental Office are here to help you with all of your dental care needs. Contact us today so we can help you or your child manage tooth decay.