A pulpectomy, often referred to as a “partial root canal,” is a common procedure in which a dentist removes all of the pulp from a tooth’s pulp chamber, removing it from the crown and roots. This procedure is commonly performed on the primary teeth of a child to reduce the risk of early primary tooth loss, which can cause bite and alignment problems. Ultimately, the dentist will want to prevent any tooth loss.


There are several causes for pulp infections, including:

• deep decay of the tooth
• a chipped tooth
• large dental fillings
• trauma to the face

Signs or Symptoms

• The tooth or gum line may develop an abscess.
• Infections can also be seen with an X-ray of the involved tooth.


Infections are easily identified, as damage to the pulp becomes visible when an abscess, a pocket of pus, forms at the tip of the tooth root. An X-ray may be needed to view the infection.

Pulpectomy vs. Pulpotomy

A pulpectomy should not be confused with a pulpotomy, in which the pulp from only the crown of the tooth is removed. A pulpotomy rather than a pulpectomy is performed when the decay involves less of the pulp. During a pulpotomy, the dentist removes the inflamed pulp, sterilizes the area, and seals the pulp chamber. It’s a common procedure for children and can also be done on adults.


Dentists take these steps with patients undergoing a pulpectomy.

1. Apply a local anesthetic—Dentists try to minimize the discomfort patients feel during a pulpectomy by administering a local anesthetic, though this does not remove pain or discomfort entirely.
2. Drill a hole—The dentist then accesses the pulp by drilling a hole into the tooth.
3. Remove the pulp and fill the tooth—After the pulp is removed, the tooth is filled with an inert substance and, lastly, filled with a cap or crown.
4. Prescribe antibiotics—To reduce the risk of infection, prophylactic antibiotics are prescribed.

Alternative Treatment

Tooth extraction is an alternative to a pulpectomy but is usually avoided because this can cause other teeth to shift, eventually resulting in crowding in the mouths of children who still have teeth growing. In addition, tooth extraction can make it difficult for children to eat, especially if more than one tooth is removed at a time.

Find a dentist in your area if you suspect you have a tooth infection and need a pulpectomy.


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