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The term Pulpectomy is the technical term for the procedure colloquially known as a root canal.  In actuality, a root canal is actually tooth structure, not a procedure.  In the middle of every tooth, there is a hollow area that contains the softest tissue found in a tooth, known as the pulp.  Pulp is found mostly in the crown of a tooth (the visible portion we see above the gum line), but there is also pulp located in the root canals that helps nourish nerves and tooth roots.[

Pulpectomy root canal pediatric dentistryA root canal is actually tooth structure, not a procedure.

Sometimes, however, this pulp becomes infected due to a tooth fracture or a cavity that works its way down to the center of a tooth.  If the pulp in the root canal becomes infected, the dentist will usually opt to perform a pulpectomy in order to avoid having to extract the tooth.  This procedure is commonly done on the primary teeth of a child in order to prevent early primary tooth loss which can cause all sorts of bite and alignment problems if gaps form in a childs smile. 

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There is more at stake here than tooth loss, however, as serious as that problem is.  If infected pulp in a root canal is left untreated, it can infect the jawbone of a child and cause excruciating pain. 


A sure sign that a child may need a pulpectomy is the formation of an abcess.  An abcess is actually a pus pocket that forms out of infected pulp below the gum line.  Parents need to seek medical treatment for their children immediately if they see and abcess in their childs mouth. 


An abcess will never go away on its own.  This is because a nerve tissue, once it begins to deteriorate, cannot pass white blood cells to the infected pulp.  Bacteria thrive and multiply in the hollow cavity left behind by degenerating tissue.  This is what causes the visible pus pocket that swells under the gumline.


While it is rare, abscesses have been known to poison the blood and even cause fatality in some people.  The only way to deal with such an infection is either through a complete tooth extraction, or through a pulpectomy.  It is not a good idea to extract teeth from the mouth of a growing child.  While primary teeth are by nature temporary, they need to remain in the mouth until permanent teeth form beneath them and push through to replace them.


Premature loss of primary teeth leaves a gap in the dental arch that causes permanent teeth to grow crookedly.  Corrective treatments which are much more expensive than a pulpectomy will then have to be undertaken to compensate for the many alignment problems, overbite problems, and underbite problems that usually result. 


A pulpectomy is a simple enough procedure itself. 

It requires first numbing the tooth and surrounding area so the child feels no pain.

A rubber dam is placed around the tooth to prevent debris from falling back into the childs throat.

Next, the dentist makes a small hole in the childs tooth.

Dead nerves, blood vessels, and tooth debris are then completely removed from every canal in the tooth. This removes bacteria, bacterial toxins, dying nerve tissue, and decayed pulp, all of which may cause infection. 

Root canals are then filled with inert material to prevent re-infection.


A pulpectomy is not to be confused with a pulpotomy, which removes only pulp from within the crown of the tooth itself and leaves pulp within the root canals themselves intact.

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Cosmetic Dentistry is a specialized field that requires extensive knowledge and experience to be done correctly. The Medical Center Dental Group in Houston, Texas brings all of that and more to the direct benefit of each and every patient we treat. Although we are located in the world famous Houston Medical Center at Scurlock Towers, we routinely see dental patients who travel from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Beaumont and Midland Texas to see Dr Dale Brant, Dr. Charles Campbell or Dr. Elizabeth OSullivan-Winslow for their cosmetic denistry services. 
For any other questions related to cosmetic dentistry, you can Contact Us at 713.795.5905, visit our Dental Blog or Ask the Dentist

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