When the nerve of a primary (or “baby”) tooth becomes infected or abscessed, a pulpotomy or pulpectomy is necessary to save the tooth. During a pulpotomy, only the top portion of pulpal area is removed, and then a sedative medication is placed inside the tooth to prevent sensitivity and to promote healing. A pulpectomy requires the total removal of the nerve. In permanent teeth the total removal of the nerve is referred to as root canal therapy.
A tooth may become abscessed from deep decay, a cracked or broken tooth, or trauma. The only alternative to pulp therapy is an extraction.
After the primary tooth has undergone pulp therapy it is more brittle and often must be covered with special, prefabricated crowns in order to give it the strength to resist chewing pressure. Fortunately, these prefabricated crowns are significantly less expensive than adult crowns.