Your child just told you that their tooth hurt. Looking into their mouth, you may notice a small pimple like swelling on the gums near the tooth. At times this sore may drain, or others seem to be swollen more than normal. This condition is actually an abscessed tooth.
Abscessed teeth are caused by decay spreading throughout the tooth to a point where it is so deep that the infection comes into contact with the inner nerve chamber. The nerve becomes infected and attempts to drain itself, thus developing an abscess that comes and goes. Some children experience severe pain while others have no symptoms at all.
Once a tooth has abscessed, it is necessary to remove the infected tooth structure and nerve. Otherwise, this infection can spread to adjacent teeth, the developing permanent teeth, result in hospitalization, or in rare cases even cause risk of infection to the brain. Treating the abscess early on is a simple process not too much different than a root canal. Rather, the diseased enamel and nerve tissue is removed and sealed off, with a temporary crown placed over the tooth in order to retain the tooth until it is appropriate for the new one to come in. Rather than pulling the tooth, having pulp therapy and a crown will help your child keep appropriate spacing and function of the teeth without interfering with their healthy eruption pattern.
Children are kept very comfortable throughout their nerve therapy, typically with nitrous oxide and a local anesthesia. For patients with special needs, a developmental disability or severe anxiety, a mild sedative may be used, or the procedure could be performed in a hospital setting.
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