root canal for kids

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on root canals for kids! While the thought of a root canal might seem daunting, especially when it involves your little one, understanding the procedure and its importance can alleviate any concerns. In this article, we’ll delve into everything you need to know about root canals for kids, from what they entail to how to ensure your child’s comfort throughout the process.

What Is Root Canal For Children?

A root canal for children, often referred to as a “pulpotomy” or “pulpectomy” depending on the procedure, is a dental treatment used to save and repair a tooth that has been badly decayed or infected. While similar to adult root canal treatments, these procedures are typically less complex due to the nature of baby teeth or young permanent teeth.
Here’s a brief overview of the two main types of pediatric root canal treatments:

  1. Pulpotomy: This treatment involves removing the diseased pulp tissue from the crown portion of the tooth (above the gum line) while leaving the root’s pulp intact. This is often done when the decay or infection is limited to the crown and has not reached the roots. After removing the decay and the diseased portion of the pulp, the area is sterilized and sealed with a filling material. Pulpotomy is commonly performed on primary (baby) teeth.
  2. Pulpectomy: This procedure is more similar to a traditional root canal and involves removing all of the tooth’s pulp, including the tissue in the roots. This is necessary when the decay or infection extends into the roots. After removing the pulp, the canals are cleaned, disinfected, and filled with a resorbable material. A pulpectomy may be necessary for both primary and permanent teeth in children.
    The goal of these treatments is to preserve the tooth so as to maintain proper spacing for the permanent teeth, support ongoing oral development, and alleviate any pain or discomfort caused by the infection or decay. These procedures are important in pediatric dentistry as they help maintain the health and function of a child’s teeth.

Is Root Canal Good For Kids?

Root canals can be good for kids in certain situations! Here’s why a dentist might recommend a root canal for your child:

However, it’s not always the best option. Here are some things to consider:

The dentist will consider all these factors to decide if a root canal is the best course of action for your child. If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to discuss them with the dentist.

Root Canal For Adults Vs. Root Canal For Children

Root canal treatments for adults and children share the same fundamental goal—to save a tooth that has been severely damaged by decay or infection. However, there are several differences in how these procedures are performed and the considerations taken due to differences in the structure of adult and children’s Dentistry, as well as their developmental needs.

Root Canal for Children (Baby Teeth)




Baby teeth are lost later on, making the procedure different from adult root canals.
Permanent teeth emerge correctly when guided by healthy primary teeth.

Root Canal for Adults (Permanent Teeth)




How Do Pediatric Dentists Perform Root Canal For Children?

Pediatric dentists perform root canal treatments on children using specialized techniques and considerations to ensure the procedure is both effective and as comfortable as possible for the child. Here’s a detailed step-by-step explanation of how these procedures are typically carried out:


Anesthesia and Sedation

Performing the Procedure

Filling the Canals:

Post-Procedure Care

Pediatric dentists are trained to handle the unique challenges of treating children, including managing young patients’ anxiety and ensuring their comfort throughout dental procedures. Their offices are also often designed to be child-friendly, which helps create a more welcoming and less intimidating environment for their young patients.

How Long Does It Take To Do A Root Canal On Baby Teeth?

A root canal on a baby tooth, often called a pulpotomy, typically takes around one hour to complete. However, this can vary depending on a few factors:
• Child’s behavior: If the child has difficulty staying still, the dentist may need to take breaks or use sedation techniques, which can extend the appointment time.
• Complexity of the case: In some cases, the infection might be more extensive, requiring additional cleaning or disinfection steps.
• Type of procedure: There are variations in pulpotomy procedures. Some dentists may perform a more complex version that involves removing some of the tooth’s root tissue.
Here’s what to expect regarding the duration:
• Numbing: Applying anesthesia typically takes a few minutes.
• Procedure itself: The actual pulpotomy procedure usually takes 30-45 minutes.
• Post-operative checks: After the procedure, the dentist will check the child’s comfort and ensure everything looks good, which may add another 5-10 minutes.
If you’re concerned about your child’s ability to sit still, discuss sedation options with the dentist beforehand. They can recommend the best approach to ensure your child’s comfort and safety during the procedure.

What To Expect When Your Child Is Recovering From The Root Canal?

Recovering from a root canal on a baby tooth, called a pulpotomy, is usually a smooth process for children. Here’s what to expect:

Here are some additional tips to promote a smooth recovery:

Won’t the tooth just fall out anyway?

You’re right, baby teeth are naturally meant to fall out eventually. However, there are a few reasons why a dentist might recommend a root canal (pulpotomy) on a baby tooth instead of just letting it fall out on its own:

However, the dentist will likely consider these factors before recommending a root canal on a baby tooth:

Ultimately, a pediatric dentist will examine your child’s specific situation and recommend the best course of treatment, whether it’s a root canal, filling, or extraction.

Signs Your Child Needs a Root Canal

Here are some signs that your child might need a root canal, also known as a pulpotomy for baby teeth:

Because young children might not always be able to communicate discomfort effectively, it’s important to be attentive to these signs and any changes in their behavior.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with a pediatric dentist as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the infection from spreading and save the tooth.

How can parents prevent tooth decay in their babies?

Here are some key ways parents can prevent tooth decay in their babies:

By following these practices, you can significantly reduce your baby’s risk of tooth decay and promote a lifetime of good oral health habits.

What is the appearance of an early stage of tooth decay?

In the early stages of tooth decay, the most common sign is the appearance of white spots on the teeth. These white spots are areas where the minerals in the tooth enamel have begun to break down due to acid produced by plaque bacteria.

Here’s a breakdown of what to look for:

It’s important to note that not all white spots on teeth indicate tooth decay. In some cases, they could be harmless fluorosis marks caused by excessive fluoride exposure during tooth development.

If you notice white spots on your child’s teeth, it’s best to consult a dentist for a proper diagnosis. Early detection and treatment of tooth decay can help prevent cavities and other dental problems.

How do I prepare my child for a root canal?

Preparing your child for a root canal involves both psychological preparation and practical steps to ensure the procedure goes smoothly. Here’s how you can help your child be ready for their appointment:

1. Explain the Procedure Simply

Use simple, positive language to explain what will happen during the visit. Avoid using words like “pain” or “shot.” Instead, you might say the dentist is going to “fix” the tooth so it doesn’t hurt anymore. Explain that their tooth will be “asleep” and they won’t feel anything during the procedure.

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

Focus on the positive aspects, such as how the treatment will make their tooth feel better. You can also talk about a small reward after the procedure, like a favorite treat or activity, which can give them something to look forward to.

3. Role-Play the Visit

Children often benefit from role-playing the upcoming visit. You can play the role of the dentist, and your child can be the patient. Show them how the dentist might ask them to open their mouth and use mirrors to look at their teeth. This can help familiarize them with the process and reduce anxiety.

4. Read Books or Watch Videos

There are many child-friendly books and videos about visiting the dentist. These resources are designed to be engaging and educational, helping to demystify the process and make them more comfortable with the idea of dental work.

5. Visit the Dental Office Beforehand

If possible, visit the dental office before the day of the procedure so your child can meet the staff and become familiar with the environment. This can help alleviate fears of the unknown.

6. Ensure They Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A well-rested child is typically more cooperative and less irritable. Make sure they have a restful night before the procedure.

7. Provide a Light Meal Beforehand

Give your child a light meal a few hours before the procedure to prevent them from feeling hungry during the appointment. Avoid giving them anything too sugary or heavy.

8. Dress Comfortably

Choose comfortable clothes for your child on the day of the procedure. Comfort can help reduce stress and keep them calm.

9. Be Supportive During the Visit

Your presence can be incredibly comforting to your child. Hold their hand if possible, and maintain a calm, positive demeanor.

10. Follow Pre-Procedure Instructions

Your pediatric dentist might provide specific instructions, such as avoiding certain foods or drinks before the procedure if sedation is going to be used. Make sure to follow these instructions carefully.

By preparing your child ahead of time, you can help ensure that the root canal procedure goes as smoothly as possible and is less stressful for both of you.

Should your child have a root canal or extraction?

Deciding between a root canal and an extraction for a child depends on several factors, including the condition of the tooth, the child’s overall oral and general health, the long-term implications of each option, and the specific recommendations of a pediatric dentist. Here are some considerations that can help determine the best course of action:

Root Canal






Making the Decision

In general, if the tooth is salvageable, many pediatric dentists prefer to perform a root canal because of the benefits of preserving the natural tooth. However, if the tooth is severely decayed or damaged, or if maintaining it poses a risk of further complications, extraction might be the recommended option. Each case is unique, so it’s essential to discuss all options with your child’s dentist to make the best decision based on your child’s specific needs.

What questions should you ask your endodontist or dentist about a root canal procedure?

Here are some important questions you should ask your endodontist or dentist about a root canal procedure:

Diagnosis and Treatment Plan:

Procedure Details and Comfort:

Cost and Insurance:

Additional Considerations:

What is the minimum age for root canal treatment?

There isn’t a strict minimum age for root canal treatment. The need for a root canal is determined by the condition of the tooth and the child’s oral health, rather than their age.

Here’s a breakdown of what to consider:

Focus on Oral Health: Generally, dentists prioritize saving teeth whenever possible. A root canal can help preserve a tooth and prevent the need for extraction.

Age Statistics: Statistically, root canals are more common among adults (30-60 years old). This is because adults are more likely to have developed deep cavities or dental problems that necessitate a root canal.

Pediatric Dentistry: However, dentists can perform root canals on children as well. For younger children (around 12 and older), the procedure is often similar to an adult root canal.

Early Childhood: For very young children, dentists might opt for a pulpotomy instead of a full root canal. A pulpotomy removes the infected pulp only from the crown portion of the tooth, aiming to preserve the developing root canals.

Ultimately, a pediatric dentist will assess your child’s individual situation. Factors like the severity of the infection, the tooth’s development stage (baby tooth vs permanent tooth), and the child’s ability to cooperate during the procedure will influence the dentist’s recommendation.


In conclusion, while the idea of a root canal for kids may sound intimidating, it’s crucial to remember that modern dentistry techniques have made the procedure much more comfortable and efficient. By addressing dental issues early with root canal therapy, you’re not only safeguarding your child’s oral health but also ensuring their overall well-being. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatric dentist for any concerns or questions regarding root canals for kids. Your child’s healthy smile is worth every effort.