What Is a Pulpotomy?

Are you wondering what a pulpotomy is? Perhaps you came across the term when searching your particular symptoms, or you saw it in literature at your dentist’s office. However, you came across the term, Ballantyne Endodontics is here with the answers to your questions.

What Is a Pulpotomy?

To understand what a pulpotomy is, we need to define some other terms. First, let’s talk about tooth pulp. Underneath their hard exterior, teeth have several softer elements inside: blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. These inner elements together make up the pulp of the tooth. It’s the nerves that send pain signals to the brain when we overuse or damage our teeth— or when we’re dealing with decay.

Minor cavities on the surface of a tooth don’t expose the pulp of a tooth. If minor cavities are treated promptly, patients don’t run a very high risk of damage to the pulp. In cases of more severe decay, the pulp in the tooth may become exposed. If this happens, bacteria can infect the tooth’s pulp, and the pulp can die. Once this happens, without intervention, the infection will continue down to the roots of the tooth, and only a root canal or tooth extraction will solve the issue.

A pulpotomy is a less invasive procedure where the pulp that resides in the main part (or crown) of the tooth is taken out, but the roots are left in. Dentists or specialists performing a pulpotomy will use a medicated filling to protect the tooth roots. In most cases a full crown is added for maximum protection.

Pulpotomies are most common in children dealing with severe decay to a baby tooth, but pulpotomies may also be performed on adult teeth. However historically the procedure has not been particularly long-lasting, and changes to older adults’ teeth make the procedure harder to do. But recent research concludes that pulpotomies can be successful for some adult patients as well.

Is a Pulpotomy Different from a Root Canal?

In a word, yes. A pulpotomy is more invasive than a standard filling, but a root canal is far more invasive than a pulpotomy. With a pulpotomy, only the top most pulp is removed. With a root canal, all the tooth’s pulp must be removed, including the roots, before filling and sealing.

Conventional wisdom in dentistry has been that if the pulp has become infected, a root canal is the only effective choice. However modern research indicates that in situations where infection is not widespread, a pulpotomy may be just as effective. Saving more of the roots and tooth is a worthwhile goal.

Pulpotomy vs Pulpectomy: What’s the Difference?

The two terms “pulpotomy” and “pulpectomy” sound very similar. Some patients think they are the same thing or might get confused between the two. But they are indeed different.

A pulpotomy as we’ve already described is the removal of the upper portion of the pulp (sometimes called the crown). A pulpectomy is the complete removal of pulp from a given tooth. It’s a more serious step, and it’s almost always done as the first step in a root canal procedure.

Which Is Right for Me?

Now that you understand what a pulpotomy is, how do you decide? Which is right for you, a pulpotomy or a root canal? Or could it be that neither is the right choice? Perhaps you just need a filling. The answer depends on what’s going on inside your affected tooth. We’d love to help you self-diagnose your situation, but it’s just not feasible. There’s no solid way to answer this question without getting up close and personal. You need to stop in for a visit so we can make a proper diagnosis and discuss your personalized pros and cons for each procedure.

Contact Ballantyne Endodontics today to schedule an appointment. We’ll help you determine the exact right course of action to treat the tooth pain you’re experiencing, whether that’s a pulpotomy, a root canal, or using our GentleWave technology for a “better root canal”, we’re here to help you.