A pulpotomy is commonly referred to as a “baby tooth root canal,” although strictly speaking it is not a root canal because the tooth roots are not involved. It is the surgical removal of the portion of an inflamed pulp chamber in a child’s tooth, when the decay or trauma is confined to the crown portion of the tooth.  Cavities and traumatic injury are the main reasons why a tooth would require pulp therapy.

The pulp is the soft interior of a tooth that contains the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissue. A cavity that has reached the nerve (pulp) of the tooth causes the pulp to become inflamed and may cause a child to experience intense pain. Because baby teeth are not as hard and strong as adult teeth, and the nerve inside a baby tooth is closer to the outside, children’s teeth are both more sensitive and susceptible to decay and tooth pain.

Bacteria must be removed from the pulp chamber inside the child’s tooth in order to prevent or alleviate an abscess or infection, and relieve pain.  This is a very short procedure, as only part of the pulp needs to be removed, and unlike adult root canals, does not require a lengthy filing process. A medication is inserted to calm the nerve of the tooth and prevent bacterial growth. After a pulpotomy on a baby molar, a filling might be used, but it is usually recommended to place a stainless steel or tooth colored crown to restore the tooth, and to ensure it is safe, stable, and protected from food particles and bacteria.

A pulpotomy is a very routine and common procedure, and can often be completed in conjunction with other dental treatments such as fillings, with the advantage it minimizes the number of times your child needs to visit the dentist for treatment. It will usually alleviate the pain, and preserves the tooth until it is ready to fall out naturally. The only alternative to a pulpotomy is extraction and placement of a space maintainer to insure the permanent tooth comes in properly.

In the case of young permanent teeth with immature roots, the pulp is needed to continue apexogenesis, i.e., the development of the tooth root, so pulp preservation is a primary goal. Long-term retention of a permanent tooth requires a root with a favorable crown/root ratio and dentinal walls that are thick enough to withstand normal function. A tooth without a vital pulp, however, can remain clinically functional.

A pediatric dentist has two years of additional training in tooth development and ways to make a child feel comfortable and secure, by alleviating fear and anxiety. In addition, they have the right-sized tools to work comfortably and effectively in a child’s small mouth.

If you are interested in pulp treatment(pulpotomy) in Costa Rica, fill out the “Find a Dentist” form on this page.  One of our patient advocates will reply to your needs.