Dental pulp is located within the hollow space inside a healthy tooth. It is filled with soft tissues including nerves, blood vessels, and pink connective tissue. Keeping the tooth, including the pulp, healthy is important in young children as it ensures the proper development of the tooth. If a tooth develops decay and gets a large cavity, the bacteria in the cavity can damage the pulp. This often causes a toothache. Bacteria must then be removed from the pulp chamber in order to prevent or alleviate an abscess or infection. A pulpotomy, commonly referred to as a “baby tooth root canal,” is the surgical removal of an inflamed pulp chamber in the tooth of a child that has been compromised by untreated cavities and decay.
It may be recommended that the entire tooth be removed when the soft tissue in the pulp chamber has become inflamed or infected, but if it is determined that the tissue is still healthy enough, a pulpotomy can be performed to keep the pulp inside the tooth alive with a special medicated filling being added to the chamber.
Laughing gas may be administered if the child is anxious during the treatment. This is a common type of conscious sedation that helps patients (children and adults) to relax and to make the procedure safer and easier on both the dentist and the patient. After the dentist starts the flow of the nitrous, he or she will numb the area to be treated. An opening is made in the top of the tooth in order to access the pulp chamber. The infected or decayed nerve tissue is removed and replaced with a medicated filling to help seal the tooth, retain the tooth structure, and prevent bacteria from entering in the future. In most cases, a stainless steel or tooth-colored crown will be placed over the tooth to cover it and ensure that it is safe, stable, and protected from both food particles and bacteria.
Following the procedure, it is important to establish an effective oral hygiene routine for the child in order to maintain the health of the treated tooth and to prevent future decay and reduce the need for additional dental treatment.
Pulpotomies are very common and routine, and they can often be completed along with other dental treatments such as fillings in order to minimize the number of visits to the dentist office.