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Endodontists have one essential goal – to save teeth. One method we use to save a distressed tooth is called pulp capping. If our endodontist determines that your damaged tooth requires a pulp capping, this root canal alternative isolates the decay from attacking the tooth’s pulp chamber to keep the pulp (and tooth) from dying. In contrast, a root canal is done to save a tooth from extraction when the infection in the pulp destroys it.

Anatomy of a Tooth

Enamel – the outer layer of your tooth
Dentin – the softer, thicker layer below the enamel
Pulp – the layer under the dentin, housing nerves, blood vessels and root end openings

Pulp capping is done when the nerve in the tooth is alive, and the pulp tissue is still healthy. It can be used to keep a large dental filling from getting too close to the tooth’s nerve. Pulp capping can involve using a dental filling to restore a tooth instead of a crown. It is also less invasive (and less costly) than having a root canal treatment done and can save a tooth from extraction. Another benefit to a pulp capping is that it results in a faster recovery period and less sensitivity afterward.

A direct or indirect pulp cap can be done to save a damaged tooth, but the tooth nerve has to be alive, and there can’t be any infection or dental abscess (pulp capping cannot be done on a dead tooth). A direct pulp capping is performed if the pulp is exposed after drilling the tooth. Sometimes an indirect pulp capping can be done where the pulp isn’t exposed, so the dentin covering the pulp chamber is capped.

Pulp Capping Treatment

– The tooth cavity will be cleaned out, and the area is medicated to prohibit infection and encourage the pulp to begin creating dentin formation.
– You will receive either a temporary or permanent tooth filling depending on the condition of the tooth.
– You will have a followup visit to determine if the pulp capping resulted in newly regenerated dentin in anywhere from 1-3 months.


There are things you can do to help prevent needing a pulp capping, and it starts right in your own home. Take the best care of your smile by brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, using toothpaste and rinsing once a day with an antibacterial mouthwash to remove bacteria.

Along with your daily oral hygiene routine, strive to consume a balanced diet, and limit sugary or acidic foods and beverages to help keep teeth and gums healthy. Be sure to see your dentist twice a year to remove hardened plaque and to check for signs of early tooth decay so it can be addressed before it advances to the pulp capping stage.

A painful tooth is telling you that something is wrong. You might have a cavity that has reached the tooth pulp, and the tooth may be dying. We encourage you to give our team a call if you have any concerns about a tooth! We are here to help you and your smile.