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The Difference In Root Canal Treatment For Adults And Children

The Difference In Root Canal Treatment For Adults And Children

Root canals — otherwise known as “endodontic therapy” — are a critical step in salvaging the structure of a tooth that has been impacted by trauma, severe decay, cracks, or an active abscess. Yet for adults and children, the types of treatment are significantly different from one another. Many people wonder why nerve treatment is needed on baby (primary) teeth at all. To understand, it’s vital to know the difference between a root canal for adults vs. children.    

Endodontic Therapy For Adults 

During an adult root canal, your dentist will create a small opening in the top of the tooth, so that the damaged nerve can be completely removed. Once the canal chamber is cleaned, it is thoroughly disinfected and filled with a permanent material to “seal off” the inside of the tooth, preventing reinfection.    

Pulpotomies And Pulpal Therapy For Kids 

 Performing root canal treatment in a child is not like that of an adult, because of a few unique factors:  

  • Baby teeth need to resorb (shrink away) for the adult teeth to take their place. As such, a permanent filling inside of the nerve canal is not appropriate.  
  •  If the treatment is performed on a child’s adult tooth, the root of the tooth is likely still in the developmental stages. A more permanent solution may be needed later on. Instead, a “pulp cap” or other type of treatment may be applied to the piece of the nerve that is closest to the crown.  
  •  Primary teeth decay much more rapidly than permanent teeth. Abscessed baby teeth may cause infection to spread to underlying adult teeth, or further into the face (resulting in hospitalization) if treatment is avoided.    

Why Not Just Pull The Baby Tooth? 

You may be asking yourself, “If my child’s baby tooth has nerve damage, why can’t we just pull the tooth since an adult one will erupt into its place?” This is a very common question that parents have for their family or pediatric dentist.  

The key here is to avoid premature tooth loss. Losing a baby tooth too early can create a chain of events that causes other teeth to become misplaced, crowded, or even impacted. Future orthodontic treatment can become complex or costly to correct a problem that otherwise could have been avoided. Salvaging the tooth is a smart preemptive step to encourage a healthy smile years down the road.    

After The Dental Nerve Treatment 

If you thought that everything was finished once your root canal was over, it’s not. After performing nerve treatment, a tooth is no longer alive. Because of this, the enamel and overall structures can become brittle and prone to cracks, breakage, or advanced wear.  

To protect the tooth and keep it functioning long-term, your dentist will need to place a crown over it. The crown bears the overall force of biting and chewing, so that you can use your tooth the same as you would one without nerve treatment.  

The extra costs will vary between adults and children. For an adult, you want a durable, permanent crown that can last for several years. With children, the tooth will only stay in place for a few more years, so a temporary option is much more appropriate. As such, the adult crown will usually cost much more than the crown used after a child’s pulpotomy.    

Treatment Costs  

Because an adult root canal and long-term crown are “permanent” by design, and nerve treatment in a child’s tooth is meant to buy time until it falls out, treatment usually costs more for the adult services.  

Unfortunately, the cost of a root canal and crown can easily cause you to reach your annual maximum allowable amount with most dental insurance plans. But dividing the treatment up over time can jeopardize the integrity of the tooth. To save money on potential future problems, it’s best to have all of the treatment completed as soon as possible. 

Avoiding treatment because you don’t have insurance could put you at risk of losing your tooth, or even a trip to the hospital because of serious infection. An affordable alternative to consider is enrolling in a dental savings plan. Discount programs like the ones available at can save people 10-60% on everyday procedures like dental fillings, root canals, crowns, or cleanings. Contact us today to enroll and start saving on your dental care right away. 

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