When Jennifer and I are in social situations, the talk often turns to teeth. So as to not scare anybody with our lack of social skills or interesting conversation topics, let me be clear that we never purposely steer the conversation towards oral health. Usually, it just happens. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy what we do and I love to listen and learn from the patient perspective. It’s just that we get quite a bit of “shop” talk around the house, office, in vehicles, and anywhere else that we have a quiet moment. Such is the life of a dental couple.
So we are at a wedding shower and an old friend comes up and says, “My kid needs a baby root canal and crown. I’ve never even heard of that. Do you think it’s necessary?”
Now, I consider myself a competent dentist and I’d had a glass or two of wine, so my competency was only going up. Despite all of that, there’s not a doctor in the world that can diagnose from two hundred miles away, having never seen the patient and no pictures or radiographs. Confident I am… Dr. House, I am not. We told my friend that, with the information he could give us, it sounded like a good idea. So what were we telling him to do? Why spend money on a tooth that’s going to fall out anyway?
Yes, there is such a thing as a baby root canal. We call it a pulpotomy and it is a way to remove infected nerve tissue from the inside of a diseased baby or primary tooth. Often, when a primary tooth has enough decay to warrant a pulpotomy, it also warrants a “baby” crown to restore and protect the tooth until the permanent tooth underneath can come in. These are very common procedures and are almost always completed in one visit.
The most common reaction we get from Mom and Dad when discussing this type of treatment is; “Why don’t we just pull the tooth? It’s going to be lost anyways.”
That’s a great point and sometimes that is the best or only option. Problem is there are instances where pulling a baby tooth can have long lasting negative effects. To make a long story short, primary teeth hold space for the permanent teeth underneath. If a child loses a baby tooth too early, all of the others start to shift and can block the permanent teeth from being able to come in correctly. This causes a more serious and much more expensive problem to fix down the line. As is usually the case, a quick fix can actually cause a bigger problem in the long run.
Hopefully, this has all made a little bit of sense. If it hasn’t, I’d be honored to answer any dental questions any time you might see me around. I’d love to hear from you.
‐Questions or comments can be sent to Drs. Parrish at ParrishDental@aol.com.