Many adults are familiar with root canal treatment, if not personally, at least in principle. However, do you know what happens if your child has serious tooth decay? In most cases, a pulpotomy is performed instead. While similar in terms of procedure and outcome, these two treatments differ in a few important ways.

What is a pulpotomy? What parents need to know.

A pulpotomy is a straightforward children’s dentistry procedure for addressing serious tooth decay. While most common for treating children, specifically in cases where baby teeth are affected, it is sometimes used in adult cases. However, a root canal treatment is typically recommended when treating adult teeth.

A pulpotomy is similar to a root canal treatment in that it is used to deal with severe cavities and tooth decay. As cavities progress, they can penetrate through the enamel and the dentin underneath. If they go deep enough, they reach the pulp tissue inside. This soft tissue is susceptible to infection.

To prevent or treat infection, a pulpotomy involves removing the affected pulp from the interior of the tooth. This is also how a root canal treatment works, except that the root canal also removes the much deeper root tissue. A pulpotomy may leave the root tissue at future risk of infection, but this isn’t a concern with baby teeth, as they’ll have fallen out by that time.

When a Pulpotomy Is Recommended: Signs and Symptoms

Ideally, keeping up with proper oral hygiene and regular dentist visits should help your child avoid the need for a pulpotomy. Even if cavities develop, routine dental evaluations will likely spot the tooth decay before it reaches a point where a pulpotomy is necessary. However, they can still happen, and it’s important to watch for signs and reach out to your child’s dentist.

Indicators of advanced cavities and tooth decay could mean your child needs the procedure. If your child reports sensitivity or pain, or if you notice them having difficulty biting and chewing, it could be due to serious tooth decay. If infection has set in, they may experience swelling and fever.

Tooth decay isn’t the only reason for a pulpotomy. When the pulp is exposed, the only effective way to prevent infection is to remove the affected pulp. This can be caused by dental trauma, such as cracks and chips as well. If your child has experienced such an injury, visit your dentist, even if it’s just a baby tooth.

The Pulpotomy Process: What to Expect

When you bring your child to the dentist, whether due to symptoms or an issue spotted during a routine checkup, they’ll carry out an evaluation and likely use X-rays to diagnose the problem. While fillings are often effective for most cavities and tooth decay, your child’s dentist may recommend a pulpotomy.

A pulpotomy can be carried out with local anesthetic, just like a routine filling. However, the longer and more invasive procedure can be difficult for children. Your dentist will discuss sedation dentistry options with you to find a solution that works for your child. This could mean nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or other options to keep your child calm and comfortable.

The process itself is straightforward. The dentist creates an opening in the tooth and removes the pulp tissue using specialized tools. They clean the interior of the tooth and fill it with a medicated filling material to prevent infection.

Depending on the specific tooth and the extent of the damage, your child may need a dental crown. Stainless steel dental crowns are often used for baby teeth. They provide cost-effective protection and restore the function of the tooth. While the appearance can be conspicuous, your child only has to have it until the baby tooth falls out naturally.

Aftercare and Monitoring: Ensuring Continued Dental Health

A pulpotomy is still a relatively minor dental treatment, so there isn’t significant recovery time. There may be some soreness and sensitivity for a few days. If there is significant pain or symptoms of infection, you should reach out to your dentist. In general, keeping up with routine dental visits is all you have to do to safeguard oral health after a pulpotomy.

Preserving Your Child’s Dental Health

Are you looking to take the most effective approach to your child’s oral health? Metro East Dental Care is your local kids’ dentist near Granite City for a full range of care options. We provide children’s dentistry focused on excellent outcomes and patient comfort. We also offer a variety of ways to afford your care, including our straightforward membership plan.

If you’re concerned that your child has symptoms of cavities, tooth decay, or infection, you can reach out to Metro East Dental Care. We can assess your child’s smile and implement the most effective solution for long-term oral health, whether that’s a simple filling or a pulpotomy. Schedule an appointment today to get started.