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Pediatric Pulpotomies: What to Know

by Youth Dental

Pediatric pulpotomies

Does your child need a pulpotomy? Over half of six- to eight-year-olds in the United States have one or more cavities in their primary teeth, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Advanced or untreated decay may result in the need for a pulpotomy. If this dental procedure is new to you, take a look at the top questions parents have about pulpotomies.

Why Would a Child Need a Pulpotomy Procedure?

Before you learn more about the whys of pulpotomies, you may need to understand the whats. What is a pulpotomy? As the name implies, this dental procedure focuses on the pulp of the tooth. Dental pulp is a jelly-like substance in the center of a tooth. This inner layer of a tooth contains the nerves and blood vessels. Even though dental decay starts at the hard outer layer (the enamel) of a tooth, if left untreated, it can move inwards.

Decayed or damaged pulp loses its blood and nerve supply. As the infection spreads, it can cause pain, fever, swelling, or bad breath. To reduce the risk of severe or untreated decay, the dentist may recommend a pulpotomy. This is pulp removal in the crown, or the visible, above the gumline part of the tooth.

If your child has dental decay that has moved into the pulp chamber area and affects this substance (or the restoration necessary to correct the cavity would affect the pulp), the dentist may recommend a pulpotomy. Some types of serious dental injuries may also require this procedure.

Is a Pulpotomy Always Necessary?

Why would you choose this procedure over an extraction — especially for a baby (primary) tooth? Your child will eventually lose this tooth. Baby teeth are placeholders that can help maintain spacing in your child’s mouth.

If the permanent tooth isn’t ready to come in, removing a baby tooth prematurely could interfere with spacing and the placement of your child’s teeth. Baby teeth also make it possible for your child to chew easily and speak clearly. Extraction could interfere with your child’s ability to eat safely or develop verbal communication skills.

What Happens During A Pulpotomy?

Like other dental procedures, the dentist will numb the area with an anesthetic before the pulpotomy. This will make the process painless for your child. If your child is nervous about the procedure, is afraid of needles (the local anesthetic requires a needle for the injection), or won’t sit still for the anesthetic or the rest of the pulpotomy procedure, ask the dentist about sedation options. Dental sedation allows your child to relax and rest during the surgery.

After the area is numb, the dentist will drill and remove the decayed outer area of enamel. The dentist will need to continue drilling through the dentin (the yellow second layer of the tooth that is under the enamel) and into the pulp chamber. When the dentist reaches the pulp chamber, they will remove the crown-level pulp. After the pulp is removed, the dentist will seal the top of the tooth.

Is a Pulpotomy and Pulpectomy the Same Pediatric Dental Procedure?

No, these two procedures are not the same. While they are similar, a pulpotomy is the removal of the crown (or above the gum) level pulp only. A pulpectomy is the removal of the pulp from both the crown and the root areas. Children typically only need a pulpotomy — but adults often need a pulpectomy as part of a root canal.

Are you ready to schedule your child’s next dental procedure? Contact Youth Dental & Vision for more information on pulpotomies and other services.

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