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3 Signs You Can Watch Out for to Know if Your Child Needs a Root Canal

boy kid suffering from toothache

Dental health is an essential part of your child’s growth and development. And even though all parents make efforts to take good care of their children’s teeth, some children develop dental problems early in their lives. But instead of losing sleep over your child’s tooth decay, it is best to consult a dentist who can recommend the best treatment for your little one.

Contrary to what you may know, a root canal treatment is not just for grownups – children may need it too. A baby root canal is a restorative procedure. It can relieve your child’s toothache, stop the infection from worsening and save a tooth that may otherwise need to be extracted. Even if your child is yet to get permanent teeth, if the nerve inside a tooth has been damaged or the pulp is infected – a root canal treatment may be the best way forward.

But how can you know if your child needs a root canal treatment? You’ll be happy to know that you don’t need expert dental knowledge to tell if your child needs root canal treatment. All you have to do is keep an eye out for these three tell-tale signs –

Symptoms That Your Child or You May Notice at Home

Tooth Pain

A toothache is the surest sign of tooth decay or dental problems. If the pain in your child’s tooth may be intense, or it may be a dull, throbbing pain that persists for a long time. Sometimes, children may complain of sensitivity in their teeth when eating hot or cold foods.

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Gum tenderness or swelling in the gums is also a symptom of tooth decay. You may notice the swelling on the outside of the face near the infected tooth, or it may look like a pimple-like sac of pus on the gums. Swelling in your child’s mouth may be a symptom of gum disease or tooth infection.


If your child is experiencing a general malaise or fever, it could be a symptom of infection in the teeth. Usually, fever is a sign of a severe infection.

Symptoms That Your Dentist May Notice

A dental exam may reveal symptoms of tooth decay to your dentist that may not be visible to the untrained eye. Dentists spot a problem early on and can help prevent further infection through timely action. It is recommended that children should go to the dentist every six months. Here are some symptoms that your dentist may notice –

  1. Dark Tooth Colour
  2. Signs of pus drainage from an infection
  3. Changes in soft tissue
  4. Asymmetry

Tests That Can Determine if Your Child Needs a Root Canal Treatment –

Your dentist may order some tests to determine the need for a root canal treatment. Here are some of the standard tests that dentists recommend –

Percussion Test

The dentist taps on the tooth with the butt end of a dental tool. Tapping a decayed tooth results in pain response, while a healthy tooth will cause no reaction.

Tooth X-ray

Taking an x-ray of the tooth shows the dentist if the tooth has an underlying infection. X-rays reveal any changes to the bone in the area of infection.

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Thermal Testing

The tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures in a thermal test. The way the tooth reacts helps the dentist detect the presence of an infection. An important aspect of thermal testing is that a healthy tooth will stop hurting immediately after the stimulus is removed

Electric Pulp Tester

For this test, your child’s dentist will hold a tester against the suspected tooth. The tester passes a variable electric current through the tooth. Healthy nerves will feel a mild tingling, while damaged nerves will not feel anything at all.

Most parents are unaware of the details of a root canal treatment and the symptoms that lead to tooth decay. If you watch out for the symptoms and signs listed above, you will know when a root canal is needed for your child. Timely treatment can prevent tooth infection and the adverse effects that come with it. On your next dentist appointment, discuss the details of a baby root canal to find out how long a root canal takes, the root canal dangers, and what you can do to ensure healthy teeth for your children.

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About the author

Anu Isaac

Dr. Anu Isaac, DMD, runs a successful dental practice in Salem, MA. She strives for quality on a daily basis and this commitment to quality is reflected in her constant pursuit of advanced training. Her firm belief that even experts need to stay updated about what's new in the dental field, enables her to provide every patient with optimal oral care. As the founder, she is dedicated to creating healthy smiles for her patients and also to educating the dental and non-dental communities with her engaging articles on oral health, recent dental innovations, and the latest treatment modalities.



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