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What is a Pulpotomy?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon306846 — On Dec 01, 2012

I just had a pulpotomy and my root canal is scheduled for a week from now. I got it because I was crying because my tooth ached so bad. I will admit, it helped. However, it's been two days and at times I am still crying in pain. I guess the plus is I can sleep at night, but I am still counting the seconds until I can get this issue completely resolved. Pain meds do nothing and the pain is constant and unbearable!

By Bertie68 — On Jun 24, 2011

I have had one root canal done. It was painful and was a long procedure to sit through. And it was painfully expensive.

I didn't realize that polpotomy was an option to relieve the pain until you can arrange a dentist appointment or until it becomes necessary to get a root canal.

I'll have to remember this when it doesn't seem to be the right time, for whatever reason, to get a root canal.

By Clairdelune — On Jun 23, 2011

Having been a parent myself, I would have done more to make sure my children brushed more thoroughly and ate less sugary food, if I had known about the need for pulpotomy in children.

It would be so upsetting if your children had to go through the pain of cavities going down to the nerves. Then parents must decide whether to extract the tooth or just clean out the decay.

So many children have such a hard time going to the dentist and sitting still through a procedure like pulpotomy. And then the child might still end up having to have a root canal.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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