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A pulpotomy is a dental procedure that removes some of the tooth pulp located in the pulp chamber. It is not a root canal, and doesn’t generally touch the roots. However, the procedure can be performed on patients who require a root canal but can’t get one scheduled for several weeks; it does remove some inflammation pressing on nerves that may be causing pain. Most often, pulpotomy is indicated for treatment of primary teeth with deep cavities affecting pulp above the roots.
When young children are prone to tooth decay, they might lose baby teeth much sooner than they should. They may also feel a degree of discomfort when they develop deep cavities that start to affect the nerves above the tooth roots. Should these be ignored they can begin to affect tooth roots, which either means doing a full root canal or extracting the tooth. Extraction is not preferred if adult teeth won’t grow in for several years.
In a pulpotomy, the dentist or endodontist drills into the tooth and removes decaying tooth matter, and then accesses the pulp chamber to remove any affected nerves and pulp. The area is treated with medication and has packing placed in it, which might stay in place. Once treatment on the pulp chamber and nerve is finished, a crown is usually placed on the tooth to prevent further decay, and to protect the tooth.
While this procedure may be successful for a baby tooth, it isn’t always 100% successful. Sometimes damage has occurred at the roots and a full root canal is required instead. The dentist and parents must weigh whether a root canal is worthwhile or if extraction is the more reasonable treatment.
Though a pulpotomy is often done on baby teeth, it has uses for older patients too. When people require a root canal they may be in a lot of pain, and a pulpotomy could be a preliminary step toward doing a root canal at a future point. The one downside to this procedure is that it often eliminates tooth discomfort, which might convince some patients that they don’t need to get a root canal. Dentists advise that pulpotomies on adult teeth be viewed as an interim step, meant to relieve pain, but not able to fully address the problems with an adult tooth. If a dentist recommends a root canal, patients should follow through and get one, or risk greater infection and tooth loss.