Can You Help Me Understand a Pulpotomy?

My son’s dentist says he needs something called a pulpotomy. I tried to ask him questions about it, but he gets annoyed and feels like I’m questioning him. I know he’s the dentists, but this is my son. I don’t want to just have a procedure done on him without understanding it.

Laura L.

Dear Laura,

I hate to hear that your dentist has you afraid to ask questions. Yes, he’s the dentist, but part of his job is to make sure you understand why he’s recommending certain procedures and gives you all the options. Especially as a pediatric dentist, you’d think he’d understand that. There’s nothing more precious to you than your child. If he can’t understand that, you need another dentist. You’re not stuck having to go to a pediatric dentist if your options are limited. There are general dentists who are great with children. Whoever you go to, I’d love for you to be able to ask as many questions as necessary for you to feel at peace.

Now, onto your question. Think of a pulpotomy as a mini root canal treatment for baby teeth which are infected. It’s usually done on molars which need to last until your son is around twelve years old. Otherwise, if he loses a molar, his teeth will shift causing crowding with his adult teeth. If his molar is infected, it does need a pulpotomy.

The procedure is fairly simple and your son won’t think of it any worse than a normal dental appointment. The pulp is removed from the roots of the tooth. Then it’s daubed with a disinfectant such as formocresol. When that’s completed, the tooth will be sealed. Usually, they’re covered with a stainless steel crown.

If it turns out the tooth has to be removed, make sure the dentist puts a space maintainer in its place so the teeth don’t shift.

I hope this helps you. Feel free to ask as many questions as you need.

This blog is brought to you by Affordable Dentist Dr. Kevin Peck.

Dentist Won’t Give Me the Color Lumineers I Want

My dentist agreed to give me Lumineers. In fact, he even suggested it when I told him I was interested in remaking my smile. Our disagreement is about the color. I want them very white. But, he insists they need a stain or they won’t look natural. I don’t want to do this until we’re in agreement. Is there some way to convince him? Or is it the Lumineers that are the problem? Do I need a different brand?

Mandy B.

Dear Mandy,

I think you need a different dentist. He doesn’t seem to understand cosmetic dentistry. In dental school, we’re taught that a stain needs to be placed in order to make it look natural. But, let’s be honest, if you wanted your teeth to look natural, why would you get a smile makeover? Cosmetic dentistry is different than general dentistry. The key is to create the smile your patient wants. IF they want a bright, white smile, that’s what they should receive.

To answer your other question, you can achieve brightness with Lumineers or any other brand of porcelain veneers. You’ll probably need to find another dentist in order to accomplish this. Your dentist is too set in the older ways of doing things.

You can do a search for a cosmetic dentist in your area. Then ask to see some of their before and after pictures to see if you like the type of results they get with their cosmetic work. After that, I’d check with their reviews on some sites such as Google or Yelp. This will help you get an idea of they have a friendly chairside manner.

It’s perfectly fine to go to your regular dentist for all your general needs. Then go to someone else for more specialized cosmetic work.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Kevin Peck.

Dentist is Humiliating Me Because I’m Broke

I felt like a total failure when I went to the dentist. I hadn’t been able to go for two years, because I don’t have insurance and I have to save up for this kind of thing. It turns out those were two bad years for my teeth. I need five fillings and two crowns. First, the dentist derided me for not coming in sooner. Then, when I told him I couldn’t afford all the work he lectured me and said if I didn’t I would lose all my teeth or die. I was so humiliated because he said all this in front of his staff. But what is a patient supposed to do if they can’t afford something? I can’t produce money out of thin air.

Louis K.

Dear Louis,

That was bad form on the part of your dentist. It was unfair of him to lecture you for something you have no control over. It’s even more unfair that he humiliates you for needing to do this in stages. And, you should know, it is totally fine for you to do this in stages. Not everyone can afford to do all their work at once. You need to find a dentist who is willing to work with you financially.

In the meantime, have this dentist list out the work which needs to be done in order of priority. Which cavities or infections are further along. Do those first, giving yourself time to save up for the other procedures. There are also dentists who work with Care Credit. It’s a medical credit card, which will allow you to have all the work done at once (if you’d like), then pay it out. Often, depending on your credit, you can choose your terms. Some have zero interest.

Your dentist is right about one thing, though not the way he handled it. People do still die from tooth infections. In fact, a father in his thirties passed away this past February from not getting to the dentist in time. Some patients make the mistake of thinking just taking an antibiotic will be enough. It won’t. It will stave off an infection for a while, but because there is no blood stream in a tooth, there’s no way for the medicine to reach it. A dentist has to physically dig out the decayed material. So, while you can put this off for a bit, don’t wait too long. That’s why I asked you to have the dentist list out the work in order of urgency.

This blog is brought to you by Dr. Kevin Peck.