The pulp of a tooth, often referred to as the "nerve" of the tooth, is the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and reparative cells. In pediatric dentistry, the goal of pulp therapy is to preserve the vitality of a affected tooth, allowing it to be maintained until the appropriate time for natural tooth loss (exfoliation).
Two primary reasons for a tooth to require pulp therapy in children are cavities (caries) and traumatic injury. Pulp therapy is also known as a "baby root canal" and can be further categorized as a pulpotomy or pulpectomy.
A pulpotomy is a procedure that involves the removal of the diseased pulp tissue within the crown (top) portion of the tooth. Afterward, a disinfecting agent is applied to calm the remaining nerve tissue, followed by the placement of a final restoration, typically a stainless steel crown.
In cases where the entire pulp, including the root canal(s) of the tooth, is affected, a pulpectomy is necessary. During a pulpectomy, the diseased pulp tissue is completely removed from both the crown and root. The canals are thoroughly cleansed, medicated, and, in the case of primary teeth, filled with a resorbable material. Finally, a stainless steel crown or appropriate restoration is placed.