You only have one set of adult teeth, and they need to last until you are 80, 90, or beyond. The actions you take towards your teeth today will either benefit you or harm you in the future. Of course, good dental care starts with seeing a dentist regularly. You should go in for cleanings and checkups, and any other time you think something might be amiss with your teeth. Education is important when it comes to any aspect of your health, so start reading the articles on this website to educate yourself about dentists and dental care. We promise that when you're 80 and you still have your teeth, you won't regret the time spent.
If your child has a deep cavity and is complaining of a severe toothache, he or she may have pulpitis. This is a condition that happens when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected. Since the pulp of a tooth contains the tooth's nerves, pulpitis is often extremely painful.
In order to relieve the pain and save your child's tooth, your family dentist may need to perform a pulpotomy or a pulpectomy. These procedures are similar to root canals that are performed on adults — they're essentially the first half of an adult root canal procedure. In fact, these procedures are often referred to as "baby root canals" since they're designed to be performed on primary teeth.
However, some parents wonder if it's necessary to perform a pulpotomy or a pulpectomy on their child's baby teeth. Baby teeth will fall out eventually, after all, so is it worth it to save them? To learn more about these procedures and why it's important to save your child's tooth, read on.
What Causes Pulpitis?
A tooth is comprised of three layers: enamel on the outside, dentin in the middle, and pulp in the interior. Cavities begin in the enamel of a tooth. If you don't have the cavity filled, it can eat through both the enamel and the dentin layer, exposing the pulp of the tooth. Bacteria in your child's mouth can invade the opening and infect the pulp of the tooth, resulting in pulpitis.
What Is a Pulpotomy?
In a pulpotomy, your family dentist will drill into your child's tooth and remove any infected or damaged pulp. This procedure is performed using local anesthesia, so it doesn't cause your child any pain.
Once the infected and damaged pulp is removed, your family dentist will fill the tooth with antibacterial medication and dental cement. The medication kills any bacteria that remain in the pulp, and the dental cement provides a protective covering for the uninfected portions of the tooth's pulp, preventing it from becoming reinfected.
Afterwards, a stainless steel crown is placed over your child's tooth to protect the dental cement.
What Is a Pulpectomy?
A pulpectomy is very similar to a pulpotomy. In a pulpectomy, however, all of the pulp in the tooth will be removed. Antibacterial medication and dental cement are used to fill the void in order to protect the tooth's root from infection, and the entire tooth is covered with a stainless steel crown.
Pulpectomies are performed when the infection is severe and appears to have reached the root of the tooth. Your family dentist will use X-rays to determine the extent of your child's tooth infection and decide which procedure will provide the best results.
Why Does My Child's Primary Tooth Need to Be Saved?
A lost tooth can make it harder for your child to chew food and cause difficulties with speech. More importantly, however, it allows your child's permanent teeth to grow in correctly. One of the functions of your child's primary teeth is that they reserve a space for the permanent teeth that erupt later.
If a primary tooth is lost before it can fall out naturally, the rest of your child's teeth can begin to shift in his or her mouth. This can cause permanent teeth to erupt too close to another tooth or to erupt at an angle, and both of these problems require orthodontic treatment in order to correct. Saving your child's primary tooth with a pulpotomy or pulpectomy reduces the likelihood that your child will need orthodontic appliances such as braces in the future.
However, it's not necessary to save the tooth when it's already very loose and ready to fall out on its own. In this case, the tooth can simply be extracted — as long as the underlying permanent tooth erupts quickly, there's little danger of your child's teeth shifting enough to affect its position.
In other cases, however, having your child undergo a pulpotomy or pulpectomy is the best option. If your child suddenly begins experiencing an extreme toothache, schedule an appointment with your family dentist. Your dentist can X-ray your child's teeth to determine the extent of the infection and whether a pulpectomy or a pulpotomy is the best course of treatment.