How Can I Prevent Root Canals? – Start Early
Patients often ask me how they could have prevented needing root canal (endodontic) treatment. My response is usually, “Well, never have a cavity”. In other words, prevention is the best medicine when it comes to avoiding more invasive dental procedures. While determining who will get tooth decay has many factors, the cause remains the same. Think of a tooth as a sponge. The sponge is filled with minerals like calcium, phosphorous, etc. that help to keep our teeth hard and cavity free. When we eat a meal or drink fluids with sugar, the bacteria in our mouths create acid which can break down our teeth. Thankfully our saliva contains minerals to re-nourish our teeth and thus buffer the acid. Where we get into trouble is when the amount of acid increase due to poor oral hygiene, an increased frequency of dietary sugar or decreased saliva flow (dry mouth). All of these can “wring out” the sponge of its minerals, allowing tooth decay to get a foot hold. Cavities and the dental procedures to restore them all have an additive effect to irritate the dental pulp (nerve) housed within our teeth. The pulp can handle some irritation, but tends to become inflamed with deeper decay or many restorative procedures.
With Halloween and the holiday season soon upon us, this is a good time to, not only think about our own teeth, but those of the little ones you have influence on. The best way to prevent root canals is to start forming healthy habits when we are young. Children should have a regular daily brushing schedule. Brushing and flossing children’s teeth before bedtime is critical as saliva flow tends to decrease when we sleep, remember the sponge? Fluoride mouth rinses help to make our teeth more acid resistant and are available over the counter in both kid and adult versions. Parents should actively help a child with brushing until the age of 7 or 8 years old, not just simply watching. Friendly reminders and supervision of brushing and flossing may be needed until a habit has been firmly established. Your local drug store should carry disclosing rinses that will stain unremoved plaque and help show your kids where they need to focus their efforts. The prevention of root canals starts early with oral hygiene practices that will become a habit for life. These habits coupled with regularly scheduled checkups at your dentist are key. Oh and parents… some candy is OK as long as regular brushing is taking place.
Dr. Jeffrey Samyn
Specialty Care Rooted in Compassion