When you hear the word "endondontics," you probably think of a root canal. But endodontic treatment entails treating any disease of the tooth's pulp, and endodontists practice several techniques to save teeth. One such example is pulp capping, which is used to keep tooth decay from attacking the tooth's pulp chamber.
Pulp capping offers an alternative to root canal treatments. When large cavities reach the tooth's pulp, you will usually experience a toothache. It's an obvious signal that you need to see a dentist -- and soon, as at-home toothache remedies will only provide you with limited relief, if any at all!
If the pulp becomes infected and the tooth dies, a root canal will be needed to save it from a tooth extraction. But if the tooth's nerve is still alive, pulp capping can be used to restrict the tooth decay from infiltrating the pulp chamber. Sometimes pulp capping is used as a preventive measure to keep a large tooth filling from getting too close to the nerve.
There are several reasons why you and your dentist might choose pulp capping over a root canal:
- Saves the nerve and preserves the tooth
- Less invasive than a root canal or extraction
- Less recovery and sensitivity following the procedure
- Costs less than a root canal
- A dental filling is often used instead of a dental crown to restore the tooth
The procedure for pulp capping requires several steps. First, the dental cavity is drilled until the dentist reaches the pulp. Then, the dentist will clean the area and cover the pulp with medicine to protect it from becoming infected.
Once the pulp is capped, the dentist will place a temporary or permanent dental filling in the tooth. If it works, dentin should regenerate over the pulp cap. The procedure usually requires a follow-up visit after several weeks to see if the dentin is developing correctly.
There are two types of pulp capping: direct and indirect. Direct pulp capping is used when the pulp is exposed after drilling. In some cases, the dentist may not need to expose the pulp, and will cap the soft layer of dentin that covers the pulp chamber. This is known as indirect pulp capping.