Inside every tooth is the most inner layer, called the pulp, which contains the tooth’s nerves, blood vessels, connective tissues, and other cells. The pulp chamber is soft and sensitive and can become infected if the outer layers of the teeth — the enamel and dentin — are damaged.
A pulpectomy is a dental procedure that dentists use to remove the pulp from the crown and roots of a patient’s tooth. In many cases of severe decay, trauma, or infection, a pulpectomy is necessary to save a tooth.
During a pulpectomy, the dentist will remove the entire pulp tissue so they can clean the crown and roots of the tooth and then fill it with a therapeutic filling material.
Pulpectomies are sometimes referred to as “baby root canals” in pediatric dentistry because dentists often perform them on children to treat infected primary teeth. A general dentist may do a pulpectomy on a child to save a baby tooth that reserves space for a permanent tooth. Otherwise, premature loss of baby teeth can lead to problems with chewing, speech development, and shifting teeth.
A partial pulpectomy refers to a procedure in which the dentist only removes the damaged portion of the tooth’s pulp or all of the pulp in the upper chamber of the tooth. They do not touch the roots of the tooth.
A pulpectomy removes all of the pulp — from the crown to the roots — and cleans, disinfects, and fills the tooth. Pulpectomies can treat both primary and permanent teeth with dead or infected pulp and abscesses.
A pulpotomy, on the other hand, removes only the coronal pulp. Pulpotomies can only be completed on teeth that are still alive (they experience sensations, have vascular flow, and respond to changing temperatures). For a pulpotomy to be successful, there must be no abscesses. While they are usually done in baby teeth with pulp damage, they can also be done on adult teeth that are severely damaged or that have cavities that reach the pulp.
A root canal treatment is a bit more extensive. A root canal involves the same steps as a pulpectomy, but the tooth gets completely disinfected, the roots get sealed with a medicated filling, and then the tooth gets a permanent filling or crown to prevent bacteria from entering the canal. A pulpectomy is the first step of a root canal, but is usually used for quick pain relief, while a root canal is a more permanent dental treatment.
During a pulpectomy, a dentist may follow these steps:
It may take some time for the numbing effects of any local to wear off and you may experience some sensitivity around the treated tooth for a few days. You can expect to get back to chewing, eating, and talking normally immediately after a pulpectomy. For pain relief, you can take an over-the-counter medication and apply ice to the affected site.
However, if your tooth was severely infected, you may be given an antibiotic prescription to follow after the pulpectomy. You may need a followup appointment if you had a bad infection, as well.
Practice good dental care by brushing your teeth, flossing, and avoiding chewing on foods like hard candies that could crack your teeth.
Like every dental treatment, the cost of a pulpectomy will vary depending on a multitude of factors:
Generally speaking, a pulpectomy will cost about $80 to $300 without insurance.
Most of the time, a pulpotomy will only take under an hour. In some complicated cases, however, the procedure may take longer.
While a pulpectomy may be painful for some patients, local anesthesia can numb the area so that you should not feel pain. Your dentist may also prescribe you pain medication and antibiotics to use after the procedure if your tooth was severely infected.
If you need to have a pulpectomy, it’s best not to avoid getting it done. Neglecting dental treatment will only result in more dental problems and a potential loss of tooth.
You can try to prevent the need for a pulpectomy by practicing good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash to keep your teeth and gum line healthier.
Yes, a pulpotomy can be done in permanent teeth. However, these procedures are usually done to save a child’s tooth.
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