Pulpotomy for Kids Explained

Pulpotomy for Kids Explained

A pulpotomy is a common procedure performed in pediatric dentistry, but they’re much less common in adults. Many are less aware of what a pulpotomy is and may confuse it with a root canal, but they are actually two very different things. Read on in this blog from Stroing and White Dental to learn more about pulpotomies.

What Is a Pulpotomy?

A pulpotomy is a restorative treatment that is used to repair primary teeth that have been infected from untreated tooth decay or dental trauma. In a pulpotomy, the infected pulp within the crown is removed and a medicated filling is placed inside. Then, the tooth may be covered with a dental crown. This is also referred to as a baby root canal. 

Difference Between Pulpotomy and a Root Canal

A pulpotomy is almost exclusively performed on primary teeth because it is not as effective in permanent teeth. A pulpotomy is also only a suitable treatment for kids with an infection that is concentrated within the crown of the tooth. 

Once the infection spreads to the roots, they will need a root canal, which involves removing all of the dental pulp in the crown as well as the roots and thoroughly cleaning and reshaping the tooth’s canals. After that, the tooth is filled and may be covered with a dental crown if it’s a rear molar.

The main differences between pulpotomies and root canals are the type of teeth they are performed on and where the infection is located. Pulpotomies are for baby teeth when the infection hasn’t spread past the crown. Root canals can be performed on baby or adult teeth when the infection has spread to the roots of the tooth.

What Is the Purpose of a Pulpotomy?

The purpose of a pulpotomy is to restore the health of a tooth to prevent the need for extraction. In the past, an infected baby tooth would have needed to be pulled. However, with advances in modern dentistry, we can now perform a minimally invasive treatment to remove the infection and repair the tooth. 

This is important because baby teeth serve an important role in your child’s oral health. They maintain space in the mouth, guide the eruption of the permanent teeth, and assist in your child’s ability to chew and speak clearly. 

When teeth are lost too early, they can cause the surrounding teeth to shift and block the eruption of the permanent tooth. It will also cause aesthetic issues and make chewing and speaking more difficult. Tooth loss also causes irreversible bone loss which can change the structure of your child’s face.

When Is Treatment Needed?

Treatment is needed when your child has symptoms of a tooth infection, such as swelling, pain, tenderness, tooth sensitivity (especially after eating hot or cold foods), and having a chipped tooth. 

A chipped tooth alone does not necessarily mean the tooth is infected, but it can damage the inner layer of dental pulp inside of the tooth and if you can see an exposed root, from a chip, bacteria can get in and cause infection.

When all of these symptoms are present, there is a high likelihood that your child has a tooth infection and it’s important to get treatment right away. Leaving an infection untreated will only cause the infection to spread to the other teeth or it can spread to the bloodstream and lead to sepsis. 

Are Pulpotomies Painful?

No, pulpotomies are painless and much less invasive than root canals. We will administer a local anesthetic to your child’s mouth before working on the tooth to completely numb the mouth so no pain or discomfort is felt during the procedure. 

Your mouth will remain numb for several hours after the treatment, but once it wears off, you may experience minor soreness around the tooth. This is normal and can be relieved with over-the-counter pain medication. 

Your child is more likely to experience pain from a tooth infection than from a pulpotomy. We offer dental sedation for children who suffer from dental anxiety or low pain tolerance.


If your child received dental sedation, they may need to hang around for a little bit so we can monitor them before letting them go home. Depending on the type of sedative used, they may need to be monitored for the rest of the day. 

Their mouth will still be numb for a few hours so you should make sure they wait until the anesthetic has fully worn off before eating or consuming hot liquids. Once the anesthetic has worn off, we recommend consuming soft foods and chewing on the opposite side of the mouth. If your child experiences any discomfort, you can give them a child-friendly dose of Tylenol. 

Schedule Your Child’s Next Appointment Today!

If your child is experiencing the symptoms of tooth infection, contact us at Stroing and White Dental today to schedule a consultation with Drs. Leah Stroing and Megan White. We can determine if your child is a good candidate for a pulpotomy or if a root canal or extraction will be needed.

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