The “pulp” of a tooth cannot be seen with the naked eye. The pulp is found at the center of each tooth and is comprised of nerves, tissue, and many blood vessels, which work to channel vital nutrients and oxygen. There are several ways in which pulp can be damaged. Most commonly in children, tooth decay or traumatic injury leads to painful pulp exposure and inflammation.
Pediatric pulp therapy is known by several other names, including root canal, pulpotomy, pulpectomy, and nerve treatment. The primary goal of pulp therapy is to treat, restore, and save the affected tooth.
Pediatric dentists perform pulp therapy on both primary (baby) teeth and permanent teeth. Though primary teeth are eventually shed, they are needed for speech production, proper chewing, and to guide the proper alignment and spacing of permanent teeth.
The inflamed or injured pulp is exceptionally painful. Even if the source of the pain isn’t visible, it will quickly become obvious that the child needs to see the pediatric dentist.
Here are some of the other signs to look for:
Initially, the pediatric dentist will perform visual examinations and evaluate X-rays of the affected areas. The amount and location of pulp damage dictate the nature of the treatment. Although there are several other treatments available, the pediatric pulpotomy and pulpectomy procedures are among the most commonly performed.
Pulpotomy: If the pulp root remains unaffected by injury or decay, meaning that the problem is isolated in the pulp tip, the pediatric dentist may leave the healthy part alone and only remove the affected pulp and surrounding tooth decay. The resulting gap is then filled with a biocompatible, therapeutic material, which prevents infection and soothes the pulp root. Most commonly, a crown is placed on the tooth after treatment. The crown strengthens the tooth structure, minimizing the risk of future fractures.
Pulpotomy treatment is extremely versatile. It can be performed as a standalone treatment on baby teeth and growing permanent teeth, or as the initial step in a full root canal treatment.
Pulpectomy: In the case of severe tooth decay or trauma, the entire tooth pulp (including the root canals) may be affected. In these circumstances, the pediatric dentist must remove the pulp, cleanse the root canals, and then pack the area with the biocompatible material. This usually takes several office visits.
In general, reabsorbable material is used to fill primary teeth, and non-reabsorbable material is used to fill permanent teeth. Either way, the final treatment step is to place a crown on the tooth to add strength and provide structural support. The crown can be disguised with a natural-colored covering if the child prefers.
If you have questions or concerns about the pediatric pulp therapy procedure, please contact your pediatric dentist.
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