A pulpotomy or pulpectomy may sound scary, but both are actually fairly common procedures in pediatric dentistry. Both procedures are commonly referred to as a “baby root canal,” as they are both essentially a root canal performed on a primary tooth.
What’s the difference between a pulpotomy and a pulpectomy?
A pulpotomy and a pulpectomy are very similar, but they are not exactly the same procedure. In a pulpotomy, the pediatric dentist only removes the pulp in the tooth’s crown, leaving the pulp in the tooth’s roots. A pulpectomy is a little more invasive, as the dentist removes all of the pulp in the crown and roots, and replaces the pulp in the roots with a strengthened filler, often cement. In a pulpectomy, the canal usually has to be reshaped too.
What is tooth pulp?
Tooth pulp is the most important part of the tooth. Pulp is made up of nerves and blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the teeth to help keep them healthy. Pulp is located in the middle of the tooth, protected by the first layer (enamel) and the second layer (dentin). Pulp extends all the way to the roots of the tooth as well. It serves functions like sensation, nutrient replenishing, and the formation of dentin. The pulp is commonly referred to as the nerve, as is often the part of the tooth that requires attention when a patient is suffering from a toothache.
Why would my child need a pulpotomy or pulpectomy?
There are a number of reasons a pulp treatment may be necessary for pediatric patients. The pulp of a tooth can become damaged if the tooth is cracked or if a cavity becomes severe enough to penetrate the first two layers of the tooth. Sometimes, when only the top surface of the tooth is affected, a pulpotomy may suffice. However, a cautious approach is necessary when deciding which procedure is best for your child because this kind of tooth infection, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body and cause additional pain and damage. In many cases, it is best to perform the full pulpectomy to ensure that no infected pulp is left behind to decay and cause problems later. It is important to trust your child’s pediatric dentist’s evaluation of the severity of the situation, as they are trying to treat the immediate issue while also working preventatively to reduce your child’s risk of oral health problems in the future.
Won’t my child lose their primary teeth soon anyway?
Some patients and parents may wonder why it is necessary to perform a pulpotomy or pulpectomy on a primary tooth, since the patient will lose their baby teeth long before they reach adulthood. While it is true that the patient will still lose the tooth in question eventually, it is important to address infections in primary teeth because they can be very painful and can also cause lasting damage that spreads all the way down to the permanent tooth before it even comes in.
If your child requires a pulpotomy or a pulpectomy, our pediatric dental staff here at New Generation Dentistry will be happy to help. We will ensure that your child’s procedure goes smoothly and that they feel comfortable and safe throughout the process.