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Dentistry/tooth death in toddler


I have a 3 year old daughter who experienced some trauma to her front teeth over a year and a half ago.  On our recent trip to her dentist, an Xray revealed she had developed an abscess.  She has finished the course of antibiotic and now we are faced with the option of a root canal or extraction.  I am clear on the procedures, but in seeking advice heard two contradictory bits of information which I am having a hard time verifying.  The first is that the adult tooth "feeds" off the baby tooth thus if the baby tooth is extracted the adult tooth will be weaker and might come in poorly.  The second piece is that a preserved tooth will be a recurring source of infection threatening the adult tooth and will likely require extraction later retraumatizing our daughter possibly instilling a fear of the dentist and a life long aversion to dentistry.  Your thoughts?

Hi Genevive,

WOW...your daughter is so young to have to be going through all this. I can certainly understand your concern. I don't know if this is good or bad news for you, but neither of the things you have heard are true.

If a baby tooth is removed, in most cases the development of the permanent tooth is not affected at all. However, at her young age, maintaining the space for the permanent tooth could be a problem and in that regard, the tooth could come in crooked. Even then, it is often possible to guide the permanent tooth into it's proper place or hold the space open with space maintainers that may need to be replaced and changed as your daughter grows.

If a root canal is done on that tooth, that would eliminate the infection and keep the tooth until it is lost normally. We see and do these all the time. If this were my daughter, that is the option I would choose. I would also have a children's dentist or an endodontist do this as it is a different procedure than doing a root canal on an adult tooth. Leaving the infected tooth in place without a root canal is setting your daughter up for continued episodes of infection and trouble.

Hope this helps.

Gary Backlund DMD, MSD


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Gary Backlund, DMD, MSD


I am an Endodontist ( root canal specialist ) and can answer questions about root canals and their treatment. I cannot diagnose or treat online, but can answer general questions. I have been a specialist for 25 years and am Past President of the Washington State Association of Endodontists.


25 years practicing as a specialist

American Association of Endodonists, Past President Washington State Association of Endodontists.

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