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What Is a Pulpectomy?

Suppose you've taken your young child to their dental professional because of a toothache, and they discover a good amount of decay in one or multiple teeth. In that case, your child may need to get a procedure known as a pulpectomy. While the term may sound intimidating, it's a great solution for preserving your child's tooth rather than removing it. But what is a pulpectomy, and why might it be the appropriate treatment for your child's tooth decay? Let's go over what a pulpectomy is like, who it's for, how to prevent further decay, and other procedures like this.

We know that as a parent or caregiver, your child's smile is a top concern. By better understanding this procedure and tooth decay prevention, you can be confident in the decisions you make and the future habits you instill in your child!

There's an important inner layer of our teeth that carries the blood supply and nerves that keep our teeth alive. Known as pulp, it's a soft, living, and very sensitive layer surrounded by the stiff and strong layers you may be more familiar with (dentin and enamel). If there's damage to the outer layers, the pulp inside can become infected. In some cases, specifically in children who still have their baby teeth, a pulpectomy procedure is the best option for saving the damaged tooth.

Who Is a Pulpectomy For?

There's a reason that a pulpectomy is best for children who still have their baby teeth. The roots of baby teeth are somewhat different from the roots of permanent teeth. Usually, baby teeth have shorter roots that eventually reabsorb into the body. The reabsorption of the roots allows the teeth to fall out naturally, with permanent teeth replacing them! Since baby teeth roots reabsorb into the body, a pulpectomy procedure typically uses a material to fill the empty canal area that can be easily reabsorbed.

What Happens During Treatment?

The simplest explanation of the procedure is that it removes the infected or diseased pulp from your child's tooth. The goal of a pulpectomy is to save your child's tooth so it doesn't need removal. Your child will be given local anesthesia while their dentist or endodontist prepares their mouth and drills a small hole in the infected tooth. Like a root canal, a dentist removes the infected pulp tissue, disinfects the area, then places an absorbable material in the pulp chamber, as noted above.

Some people wonder what the difference is between a pulpectomy vs. a root canal. Children usually receive pulpectomies, while adults receive root canals. Another significant difference is that the pulpectomy procedure is just the first part of a root canal, while a root canal ends with a crown or permanent filling.

Why Not Just Remove the Teeth?

A common assumption about baby teeth is that since they will fall out eventually, there's no reason to save them. Understandably, it can be difficult for parents to comprehend why their child should undergo a dental procedure on a tooth that's just going to fall out anyway.

But primary teeth play an essential role that goes beyond only waiting for the permanent teeth to erupt. Along with helping your child eat, begin to form sounds, and speak, their baby teeth also preserve space in their mouth for the permanent teeth that will come in. But suppose one or more primary teeth fall out before permanent teeth are ready to grow in. In that case, your child may develop problems with their teeth alignment and be more prone to needing orthodontics.

That's not to say that removing and restoring the pulp is always the proper treatment. In some cases, extracting your child's tooth is the appropriate option. It all depends on whether the permanent tooth is ready to come in and replace the damaged baby tooth, how damaged the baby tooth is, and how deep the infection is. Your child's dentist will be able to walk you through each option and educate you on which is best for your child's situation.

Can Your Child Avoid a Pulpectomy?

If the idea of having your child undergo an intense dental procedure doesn't sit well with you, we understand! There are preventive measures to reduce the risk for damage or infection in the pulp of your child's teeth. Encouraging good dental care habits in your children, starting at a very young age, will help protect their teeth. And starting early habits will help your child create strong dental hygiene routines they will take into adulthood.

Helping your child brush their teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste will reduce the chance of their primary teeth developing cavities, thus lowering their risk for a pulp infection. If you're having trouble getting your child excited about brushing, there are several different creative ways to get them more engaged, whether it's singing songs about dental care, taking cues from their pediatric dentist who may have toys and games that will teach them about dental care, and keeping several kinds of toothpaste and toothbrushes in rotation for them to choose from each day.

Regular dental visits are also a must! If you stay on top of your child's scheduled dental appointments, their dental professional will have a better chance of spotting early signs of decay. With early detection, they can prescribe treatment before it evolves into a severe condition.

We know that finding out your child's toothache is a sign of damage to their tooth's inner layer is not something any parent looks forward to. You work hard to keep your child healthy and happy, so realizing there's trauma or decay in their perfect smile is no fun. But consider a pulpectomy as a way to preserve their grin! It's an essential procedure to reduce the need to pull baby teeth before they're ready. By upping your child's oral care routine, attending all necessary appointments, and teaching them about the importance of dental care, you're well on your way to making sure they won't face severe dental decay again.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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