Root Canal for Kids – Does Your Child Need It?

Root canal treatment is usually recommended for adults to prevent the loss of a tooth owing to injury or decay. It is an effective and safe means to combat various kinds of a toothache. But if a kid has any dental problem, you may wonder if a root canal is required especially when the milk (primary) teeth are likely to fall out on their own in due course of time. It is important to save baby teeth if possible with paediatric root canal instead of merely extracting the ones that are giving trouble.

What is Endodontic (Root Canal)?

A root canal is the hollow part of the tooth which comprises of the blood vessels, nerve tissues, and other cells. A root canal is also called the pulp. The dental treatment which deals with the root canal is known as endodontic therapy. Endodontic in Greek refers to ‘endo’ meaning inside and ‘deontic’ means tooth.

In case the pulp of your kid’s tooth is infected or injured, a paediatric root canal can be a likely option to save the tooth. And contrary to popular belief root canal treatment may not cause pain but often provides relief from the pain.

Are Root Canals Safe for Children?

Root canals are considered safe for children. However, you may like to check and verify the expertise of the dentist regarding root canal procedure and techniques and the kind of dental equipment which may be used to perform the treatment.

Signs that Your Child Needs Root Canal

Root canal treatment is generally for adults. But in some cases, a child may need a root canal as well.

1. Symptoms You May Notice

  • Take note of your kid’s complaint about tooth pain which is usually the earliest indication of an infection.
  • Root canal ache can either be dull or intense and your kid may develop sensitivity to cold or hot foods.
  • You may also notice some swelling or inflammation of gums.
  • You may see some pus formation in your kid’s mouth.
  • A child may have a fever.
  • His lymph nodes may swell.

2. Symptoms that Dentist Notices

  • Soft tissue variations.
  • Darkened tooth colour.
  • Unevenness in teeth.
  • An indication of drainage from an infected tooth.

3. Symptoms the Tests Determines

  • The percussion test wherein the dentist will knock on the tooth lightly with a dental tool to ascertain the pain response.
  • An x-ray of the tooth will be conducted to check for any underlying infection.
  • The dentist may try to look for radiolucency on a dental x-ray. Radiolucency often refers to the appearance of a white or brown spot at the root of a tooth due to changes in the bone density implying early stages of decay.
  • The dentist may also employ thermal testing in which teeth are laid bare to cold and hot temperatures to determine teeth’s reaction. The teeth’s response to a stimulus reveals the health of the nerve tissues of the teeth.
    A girl with tooth pain

Tips for Preparing Your Kid for Root Canal

A kid might get anxious on hearing about a root canal. But if it cannot be avoided, the least that can be done is to prepare a child for the same. Here are some tips to prepare your kid for a root canal:

  • Try and not let your anxiety pass on to your kid.
  • Explain to your kid in a calm tone the reason and the steps of the procedure so that he is mentally prepared.
  • You can also inform him that most doctors commonly use anaesthesia to block any likely sensation of pain.
  • Explain to your kid that the procedure doesn’t take much time and will be over soon.

Root Canal for Kids with Permanent Teeth

In case of infection or tooth decay for kids with permanent teeth root canal may be done, as the infection can permanently harm your kid’s teeth if not treated properly and timely.  So, if your kid with permanent teeth shows signs of sharp toothaches, teeth sensitivity, a broken tooth revealing a nerve or root seek your dentist’s help immediately.

Root Canal Treatment for Milk Teeth

Root canal treatment for milk teeth is not unusual. Baby teeth are vital for your kid’s speech development and eating. Baby teeth also hold the place for adult teeth and help in the proper alignment of the adult teeth when they arise. Root canal for milk teeth may become necessary to prevent any likely spread of infection to the new adult teeth that will come later as your kid grows up.

Is Baby Root Canal Treatment Necessary for Children or Should It be Avoided?

Every dental case can be different and may require different corrective dental procedures. Your dentist can best advise you on the kind of dental procedure your child may need after examining his condition. If your child complains of toothaches or if you notice any signs of infection in his mouth, it is sensible to fix an appointment with your dentist. If the dentist upon examination feels that the baby tooth can be saved and successfully treated with a baby root canal, he may offer it as the necessary treatment.

Alternative Treatment Methods that Can Help Save Teeth

Some of the alternative treatment methods that may help save teeth can be:

Indirect Pulp Treatment

Every tooth has a soft pulp which is full of nerves and blood vessels. In case the pulp gets infected, your kid may experience pain and tooth sensitivity. In case the pulp damage is slight, indirect pulp treatment is a likely treatment wherein the dentist tries to remove as much decay as possible but leaves the pulp. An antibiotic is usually applied before sealing up the tooth.


If the pulp decay is covering the crown of the tooth pulpotomy may be the preferred treatment. Pulpotomy includes removal of the damaged pulp from the teeth’s crown, soothing the remaining tissue, sterilizing the area, and then sealing the tooth.

Every child can have different dental experience. Your child may experience only some of the symptoms for a baby root canal. So, follow your instincts and if you feel something is wrong, inform your doctor for guidance and timely treatment.