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If you’ve never heard of the term “pulp-capping,” you are not alone. Although related to endodontic treatment, it is the phrase “root canal” that most people recognize. In a nutshell, pulp capping is a dental procedure that is done to prevent a root canal later. By restoring a tooth that has heavy decay that hasn’t yet reached the tooth’s pulp, we can still save the tooth. The pulp is the layer of nerves located underneath the dentin layer that sits under the tooth enamel.

By capping a damaged tooth pulp, you can prevent the infection from taking over the tooth by protecting the nerve endings from incurring further damage. It also means you can still use the tooth to eat without causing pain. Pulp capping seals off the tooth from developing an infection that might destroy the pulp and need a root canal treatment to save the tooth from extraction. Pulp capping is great when the tooth’s nerve is still alive and functioning as it prevents the decay from reaching into the pulp chamber. Pulp capping can also keep a large filling in a tooth from touching the nerves.

Two Types of Tooth Capping

Indirect Pulp Caps

For a tooth with deep decay that could touch the pulp tissue by exposing the pulp, we may need an indirect pulp cap. We can leave some decay near the pulp tissue as long as we cover the area using a biocompatible material to fix the dentin and prevent additional decay from taking place. It works as long as the filling material seals the dentin from any oral bacteria from passing through it. Indirect pulp capping is a good solution for the primary teeth and young adult teeth.

Direct Pulp Caps

This version of pulp capping can be done on an adult tooth if removing the decay will expose the pulp. If the pulp is infected by decay or is symptomatic, then a root canal treatment might be a better choice. But if the pulp is healthy, we can cap the exposed pulp material and seal it with a filling to fix the issue.

The Aging Patient

Another item that matters is the patient’s age and the size of the pulp canals. For older patients, having smaller pulp canals means the bleeding will be slower on the pulp’s exposure but with a higher chance for the pulp cap to fail. Conversely, a younger patient’s tooth with a bigger pulp has the best chance to succeed.

Why Would You Have a Pulp Capping Done?

  • Pulp capping saves the tooth nerves and keeps the tooth alive.
  • Pulp capping is least invasive when choosing between a root canal or tooth extraction.
  • After a pulp capping procedure, there is less recovery needed and sensitivity incurred.
  • A pulp capping is more economical than having a root canal done.


It is important to practice good oral hygiene habits to keep your teeth healthy! Ideally, you should brush twice a day, floss every day, and use mouthwash to keep germs from taking over your smile. Also, limiting surgery foods and drinks and seeing your dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and exams are excellent preventative measures you can take.

Should problems arise with your teeth, pulp capping can help you or your child’s tooth’s pulp thrive once again. We invite you to reach out to our endodontic team if you have problems with a tooth that needs help.