Hold Your Nerve: How A Pulpotomy Can Save Your Child From Needing Root Canal Therapy

Every good parent knows that taking good care of their child's deciduous teeth (more commonly known as milk or baby teeth) is important. If a baby tooth becomes damaged by tooth decay and is not treated promptly, it can rapidly become badly infected.

In many cases, baby teeth that become infected in this way will require a root canal therapy. This involves a procedure known as a pulpectomy, in which the infected pulp is completely extracted and replaced with an inert filling that keeps the outer shell of the baby tooth in place. Such an invasive procedure can be unpleasant to go through, especially for young children, and carries risks of complications. It can also affect the growth and eruption of the adult tooth that eventually takes the place of the treated tooth. However, if an infected tooth is treated swiftly, it may be possible for your child's dentist to perform an alternative procedure known as a pulpotomy.

What is a pulpotomy?

During a pulpectomy, the entirety of the pulp within a tooth is removed, including the pulp within the canals inside the roots of the tooth. However, the pulp held within these roots generally takes longer to become infected than the pulp in the main body of the tooth. If these tissues are still healthy enough to be saved, a dentist can perform a pulpotomy, which only involves removal of the infected pulp above the roots. The remaining pulp is then dressed and protected with a specialised medicated filling, and the tooth is capped, generally with a silver or polymer resin cap.

Why should I choose a pulpotomy for my child over full root canal therapy?

Pulpotomy procedures hold a number of advantages over root canal therapy involving a full pulpectomy:

  • Less invasive - Because less of the pulp is removed, the procedure is generally quicker and easier to perform than a pulpectomy and has a shorter healing period. Healing periods can be reduced further with the use of dental lasers to remove the pulp.
  • Lower chance of complications - The pulp in the roots that is left behind is treated and sterilised before being coated in the medicated filling. Combined with the natural immune resistance of the remaining pulp, these treatments help to prevent reinfection. Leaving the natural root pulp behind also lets the baby tooth retain more of its strength and stability, reducing the likelihood of complications when your child's adult tooth erupts.
  • Retention of nerve tissues -- Because some natural pulp remains after a pulpotomy, your child's tooth should retain a degree of sensation. Although this can mean that recovery is more painful for your child, it is actually advantageous, as the tooth will still be able to transmit pain and 'warn' both you and your child if it becomes reinfected.

For more information, talk with your dentist about different options or endodontics, which deal with root canal therapy.