What Is a Pulpotomy? Baby Tooth Root Canals Explained


Pulpitis, Pulpotomy, and Pulpectomy—What They Mean

Your child has been experiencing a toothache, and their pediatric dentist has discovered that a badly decayed baby tooth is the cause of the problem. The good news is that your child’s tooth is able to be saved. However, a dental filling won’t be able to fix the issue. Now what? In this situation many pediatric dentists recommend a procedure called a pulpotomy.

What is a pulpotomy?

A pulpotomy is a fairly common tooth decay treatment option for kids’ primary (baby) teeth. In fact, many pediatric dentists refer to a pulpotomy as a baby root canal when discussing treatment options with parents.

If you’re a bit taken aback by the idea of your child going through a root canal, rest assured that a pulpotomy is not the same process as the root canal you may have experienced as an adult.

Pulpotomies are far less invasive than traditional root canals and are performed on live teeth that simply need more protection than a dental filling is able to offer. During a pulpotomy, a pediatric dentist will only remove decayed tooth and coronal pulp. Coronal pulp is simply the nerves and soft tissue within the tooth above the gumline.

Pulpotomy vs. Pulpectomy

Though the terms sound similar, there is a big difference between a pulpotomy and a pulpectomy. A pulpectomy is the more invasive option that most people recognize as the traditional root canal procedure.

While a pulpotomy is done on a live tooth and only removes diseased coronal pulp, a pulpectomy is used on a dead tooth and removes all pulp, including that located in the tooth roots.

When is it necessary?

A pulpotomy is necessary when a child’s decayed tooth is too damaged for a typical dental filling and pulpitis is present.

Pulpitis is inflammation of the tooth pulp. This condition occurs when tooth decay has broken down enough tooth enamel to reach the inner layer of dentin and eventually the pulp itself. Symptoms start as tooth sensitivity and can quickly result in a terrible, nagging toothache for your child.

A pulpotomy is often the last resort before a decayed baby tooth has to be pulled.

Why not extract all decayed baby teeth?

Since baby teeth are temporary, many parents naturally wonder why their child’s problem tooth can’t simply be pulled.

Although your child’s baby teeth won’t be around for long, they serve a very important purpose while they’re present. They ensure your child is able to speak and eat properly. Most importantly, their natural loss allows for future adult teeth to erupt in proper alignment.

Premature loss of baby teeth can lead to trouble chewing and tooth alignment issues, including gaps between adult teeth, crowding, and crookedness. For these reasons, a pulpotomy is a fantastic solution for saving valuable baby teeth while preventing further decay or damage from occurring.

What happens during my child’s pulpotomy?

The process of getting a pulpotomy is easy for most kids. In terms of chair time and invasiveness, the entire procedure is right between dental fillings and traditional root canals.

There are four steps to a typical pulpotomy appointment.

After you and your child arrive for their appointment, you are welcomed into the office and situated in an exam room. The check-in process is the same as most treatments and checkups.

The first step in a pulpotomy is receiving an evaluation from their pediatric dentist and getting numb. Our doctors take comfort very seriously and will ensure your child’s tooth is completely numb before moving forward.

The second step is the gentle removal of any decayed tooth enamel surrounding the cavity. This is the same process that happens before placing a dental filling.

The third step is opening the pulp chamber and removing the coronal pulp within the tooth. During this step the dentist will also place special medication within the now empty space in the tooth.

The fourth step is sealing the pulp chamber and covering the tooth in a protective stainless steel crown. Your child’s pulpotomy is now complete, and they are ready to go home.

Sedation can help your child experience a trouble-free pulpotomy.

If your child has had a dental filling done before and handled it well, a pulpotomy should be a very similar experience. If your child is feeling nervous or doesn’t enjoy visits to the dentist, Must Love Kids offers a few sedation options to ensure their patients are relaxed and comfortable.

Find out if it is the optimal treatment for your child’s toothache.

Toothaches and temperature sensitivity are the first signs of a problem. If your child is experiencing any sort of oral discomfort, it’s important to book a dental appointment as soon as possible rather than wait for their next preventive care appointment. Similarly, if your child has a known cavity, the sooner the tooth is treated, the less intensive the treatment needed will be.

You can learn more about pulpotomies and whether your child is a candidate by scheduling an appointment with us at Must Love Kids. You can either give us a call during business hours or fill out a quick online form here.