What is a Pulpotomy?

patient getting teeth checked with dental tool

It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of good dental health. When you smile, your teeth are vital, but they do much more than make you look good. They chew your food and enable you to enunciate words.

Despite their importance, many people have untreated cavities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 25% of adults ages 20 through 64 have untreated cavities. Cavities, also called dental caries, are holes in the teeth. Depending on the severity of the cavity, a general dentist or pediatric dentist may recommend a pulpotomy to treat your dental issues. Understanding pulpotomies and your treatment alternatives can help you to determine the best treatment issues for your cavities.

What is a pulpotomy?

A pulpotomy procedure involves removing your tooth’s pulp, which is the blood cells, nerves, and tissues inside your tooth. Cavities that spread to your tooth’s pulp can be painful and make consuming cold or hot beverages or foods challenging. The infection can also cause swelling and fever.

What is the purpose of a pulpotomy?

Pulpotomies contain cavities that have spread to the tooth’s pulp. These infections can spread to your tooth’s roots and your gums if left untreated. A pulpotomy stops the infection and can protect your gums.

A successful pulpotomy can also prevent tooth extraction. Removing a tooth is more serious than you may realize. For adults, losing permanent teeth can only be addressed with artificial alternatives. You’ll need dental bridges, implants, or dentures to replace the missing tooth. Having dental oral surgery to install implants is expensive and time-consuming.

For children, losing baby teeth can create long-term dental issues. Losing baby teeth too soon can cause the teeth around the missing tooth to shift, resulting in crowding when permanent teeth break through the gums. Permanent teeth may also come in crooked. Consequently, many children who have baby teeth extracted need braces to align their permanent teeth.

Are pulpotomies common?

Pulpotomies are standard dental procedures primarily performed on children. A general dentist or pediatric dentist can perform a pulpotomy in their office. Some patients have pulpotomies performed by an oral surgeon.

The Procedure

A pulpotomy usually takes half to three-quarters of an hour. Dentists inject a local anesthetic into the gums around the infected tooth. Numbing the area allows the dentist to drill into the tooth and remove the damaged portion of the tooth without causing you pain. Next, your dentist drills until they reach the tooth’s pulp. Your dentist will extract the infected pulp and use a sealant, such as calcium hydroxide cement, to fill the void.

After a Pulpotomy

Some patients experience side effects following a pulpotomy. Symptoms include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Bleeding

You shouldn’t eat or drink anything until the anesthesia wears off. Once it does, stick to a recommended list of soft foods to eat after dental surgery. Eating solid foods can trigger nausea and vomiting. Eating soft foods is also easier on your jaw. Recommended soft foods include:

  • Applesauce
  • Soup
  • Eggs
  • Porridge
  • Yogurt
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Pasta

You may need to take antibiotics for several days following your pulpotomy. Patients typically heal from this procedure in a week or less.

How is a pulpotomy different from other dental procedures?

man with toothache holding the side of his cheek

Although pulpotomies aren’t rare, they aren’t as commonplace as dental fillings, tooth extractions, and root canals. While some of these procedures may be options for treating your cavities, it helps to understand the critical differences between pulpotomies and other dental procedures to ensure you pursue the proper treatment.

Fillings

Stage one cavities can be reversed with fluoride treatments, but once cavities reach stage two, they’re permanent. Dental procedures are the only way to treat these cavities. Your dentist can use tooth fillings to fill holes in your enamel or dentin, but fillings are only an option before your cavity reaches the tooth’s pulp.

Pulpectomy

You may wonder about the distinctions between a pulpotomy vs. pulpectomy. A pulpectomy is more extensive than a pulpotomy. In addition to removing the infected pulp, dentists remove the tooth’s roots in a pulpectomy.

Root Canal

Pulpectomies are similar to root canals because they involve removing the tooth’s pulp and roots. However, when dentists perform a pulpectomy, they use materials that the human body can absorb to fill the tooth. Dentists use permanent materials when performing a root canal. Pulpectomies are typically used on baby teeth, while dentists perform a root canal to treat permanent teeth.

Should you get a pulpotomy?

dentist adjusting light over patient

Your dentist has the knowledge and expertise to diagnose dental issues and recommend appropriate treatment options. Symptoms such as white spots or tooth pain are reasons to book an appointment immediately. Our dentists perform examinations and take X-rays to determine whether you have cavities, their severity, and the best treatment options.

Sources

Whelan, C. (2020). Everything to Know About Pulpotomy for Teeth.

Lin, P. et al. (2014). Primary molar pulpotomy: A systematic review and network meta-analysis.

Hirsch, L. (2018). Mouth and Teeth. (2018).

Oral and Dental Health. (2022).

About the Author

Dentists in Las Vegas and Reno

Absolute Dental

Absolute Dental started in the Las Vegas valley with a single office and has been providing industry-leading dental care to our communities ever since.

Now at more than 30 offices across Las Vegas, Reno, Sparks, and Carson City and growing, we remain committed to offering quality affordable dental care and patient education while providing a relaxing and comfortable experience for your entire family, from the young to the young at heart.

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