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What Is a Pulpectomy?

The removal of the infected pulp and root canal prevents spread of infection to other teeth.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2014
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A pulpectomy is a dental procedure in which all of the material in the pulp chamber and root canal of a tooth is removed. This procedure is recommended when the pulp has an infection that cannot be resolved. The goal of the procedure is to prevent the infection from spreading, which could lead to the loss of one or more teeth.

The pulp is soft living tissue found inside all teeth. This tissue includes cells that generate dentin, the hard material from which teeth are made. When pulp becomes infected, it can cause considerable pain to the patient, and the infection can spread into the jaw and to neighboring teeth, making it a cause for major concern. Infections can often be identified visually, as the tooth or gumline may develop an abscess, and they can also be seen with an X-ray of the involved tooth.

During the pulpectomy procedure, the patient is given a local anesthetic to minimize pain, although the procedure is usually still uncomfortable. A hole is drilled into the tooth to allow the dentist access to the pulp. He or she uses tools to carefully remove all of the material, and then flushes out the tooth to remove lingering traces of infection. Next, the tooth can be filled with an inert substance, and then sealed with a crown or cap. Typically, prophylactic antibiotics are prescribed to reduce the risk of developing an infection in the wake of the procedure.

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In a related procedure, a pulpotomy, only the pulp from the crown of the tooth is removed. Pulpotomies are less invasive for the patient, with a shorter healing time and less discomfort. The risk of this procedure, however, is that infected pulp can be missed. Sometimes, a patient may be scheduled for the less invasive procedure, but more serious work is needed, in which case there will need to be a change of plan.

Another alternative is a tooth extraction, in which the entire tooth is removed. Extractions are usually avoided, if possible, because they can be accompanied with problems. Extracting a tooth can lead to crowding as other teeth move around in the mouth, which can make it problematic for children who have teeth that are still growing. They can also make it difficult to eat, especially if multiple teeth are removed.

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Discuss this Article

Bailey1989
Post 3

I wanted to touch on the part of the article that talks about extraction as the alternative to a pulpectomy. Sometimes this is the only alternative if the tooth is too far gone, but sometimes it's just more affordable. I have had 4 of my teeth extracted because they were back teeth and it was only $60 to pull them as opposed to nearly $1000 to treat them.

No, it's not for everyone as it does impact your chewing a bit, but it is better than letting it go and getting an infection. I also had them pull my wisdom teeth after having problems with them. Teeth can't cause problems if they aren't there, right?

palomino
Post 2

I would like to add that an abscessed tooth is nothing to mess around with. I put off a pulpectomy for a year because I couldn't afford it and ended up in the emergency room with pain. Yes, I felt like an idiot for going to the ER for a toothache, but you would not believe the kind of pain that tooth was causing me!

I ended up on a two week course of very powerful antibiotics, some pretty serious narcotics for the pain, an ER bill, AND a higher dental bill because he had to reopen the tooth 3 times to get rid of all of the infection before he could seal it.

A tooth infection can kill you if you don't have it taken care of. Listen to your dentist...they aren't just trying to take your money. They could be trying to save you from a whole lot of pain, and more importantly, save your life!

babiesX3
Post 1

Having had to receive root canal treatment on six different occasions, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the pulpectomy. Call me cursed, by I am predisposed to very bad teeth. This article offers a very good overview of what happens during the procedure, but I did want to offer some words of wisdom with regard to discomfort.

Most people dread a endodontic work more than anything, but I have found the procedures to be no more unpleasant than a typical filling. There are a couple of points where it sounds terrible and one point that you believe the dentist is surely trying to reach your brain with the tools, but nothing that is painful with the right amount of anesthetic. So for anyone who is in need of a pulpectomy but is putting it off because of what they've heard about the discomfort, please don't put it off any longer. It can save your tooth and keep you from getting very sick with infection.

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