Study to Examine Outcomes of Root Canal Therapy on Children

Dentistry Today


The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has awarded a five-year grant worth more than $805,000 to Lorel Burns, DDS, MS, to study the prevalence and outcomes of root canal therapy in children. Burns is an assistant professor of endodontics at the New York University (NYU) School of Dentistry

Root canal therapy is the most common endodontic procedure in the United States, NYU Dentistry reports, with more than 15 million performed annually. While most of the literature on root canal therapy outcomes focuses on adults, the school added, children also undergo the procedure on their permanent teeth.

Treating tooth pain and infection in children is different from treating adults due to anatomical differences and behavioral factors, NYU Dentistry says. And as the field of endodontics has advances, newer, alternative treatments have emerged for treating permanent teeth with immature roots, it adds.

“Because of the lack of robust data comparing these endodontics strategies and their outcomes in children, clinicians may have difficulty making informed treatment planning decisions and evaluating quality of care. This underscores the need for rigorous assessment and quality measures specific to the pediatric population,” said Burns.

To address this gap in knowledge, Burns will use a mixed-methods approach to determine the prevalence, outcomes, and spending related to root canal therapy performed on children’s permanent teeth.

The researchers will use a quantitative assessment using a large, population-based sample of administrative claims data from New York and Massachusetts. Through qualitative interviews with clinicians, Burns also will explore whether a variety of factors related to patients and providers influence treatment planning and decision making.

“By focusing on children, an understudied group, and evaluating how public versus private insurance and clinician decision-making impact outcomes, out study will allow for broadly generalizable findings on root canal therapy that have the potential to influence clinical practice and dental policy,” said Burns.

The grant is a K01 Mentored Career Development Award drafted to launch Burns’ career in health services research, integrating her clinical expertise in endodontics with additional training in the analysis of clinical care processes and outcomes at the population level. 

Burns’ primary mentor for this grant will be NYU Langone Health’s Heather Gold, PhD, a health economist and expert in determining how socioeconomic, racial and ethnic, geographic, and clinical variations in healthcare affect health and economic outcomes.

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